University Council approves budget despite concerns

| Rense Kuipers , Stan Waning

The University Council expressed strong concerns about the 2024 budget on Wednesday morning. The council sees resistance in the organisation and has strong doubts about the feasibility of the budget cuts. Nevertheless, the council voted unanimously after a drawn-out discussion. On 1 March, there should be more financial clarity from all ranks and levels of the UT.

Photo by: Frans Nikkels

The University Council came up with nine concerns after the past period of financial perils and measures. The most striking: an extremely optimistic view of the budget figures by the Executive Board, compared to previously realised budgets. According to the council, the cutback target of over 12 million euros in faculties and service departments was set very quickly - within two months. Structural adjustments for the long term are also lacking, according to the council, which also points to mixed signals from faculties and departments about the necessity and feasibility of the measures.

Concerns about feasibility

It seems 'highly unlikely' to the council that the figures in the 2024 budget will be met. In fact, the council doubts whether the Executive Board's strategy will be successful. Do faculties and departments have the capacity to absorb the intended budget reduction with personnel changes?

That will be problematic, the advice shows, 'because the required cuts of around 12 million will affect a large proportion of staff with a potentially large impact on teaching and research'. What the university council understood from the faculty and service councils is that they all 'explicitly and implicitly' questioned the feasibility of and motivations for the cuts next year.

Concerns about own ability

During Wednesday's plenary meeting, where only the budget was discussed, council chairman Herbert Wormeester asked each member of the council individually about their concerns. There were many: about the savings communication, the process of the past months, the effect that cuts are going to have on students and on education quality, about the sense of urgency, responsibility and leadership, about the attractiveness of the university and how the UT can or cannot increase revenue... There were even concerns about the council members' own ability to interpret the budget figures sufficiently well.

'Sometimes I am worried about the lack of urgency, other times I am surprised by the panic' - Herbert Wormeester

In an at times stagnant and muddled discussion, which, as so often, focused on the 'communication' part, barely a figure was mentioned. The council again asked the board to take an even firmer lead in communicating to the community about the cuts. Because, as Wormeester summed up the situation: 'Sometimes I am worried about the lack of urgency, other times I am surprised by the panic. There is no reason to panic, but we still have to make significant cuts and that will come at the expense of staff members, among other things. There will be gaps in the organisation.'

But where those gaps will occur is not yet clear. The council and the board agreed that by 1 March it should be clear in what way the faculties and services at UT will have to make cuts. Moreover, the Executive Board announced that it wants to monitor the financial situation more closely and frequently, which is why a management report is now published every two months. Rector Tom Veldkamp also stated that the quality of education must not suffer from the cutbacks. According to him, this must be kept under close scrutiny.

With all the questions and concerns in mind, Wormeester raised the question during the meeting: what if the council would not agree to the budget of 2024? 'That would only make the situation worse,' vice-president Machteld Roos responded, to which Wormeester spoke of a 'prisoner's dilemma'. And so, in the end, every council member agreed to the budget.

But that budget is not final until the supervisory board also approves the financial plans. That should be clear tomorrow.

Update 22/12: Supervisory board approves

The supervisory board approved the budget yesterday, making the 2024 budget final.


Stay tuned

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.