‘The Hague must invest more in scientific research to tackle global problems’

In his opening address for the new academic year rector Frank Baaijens called on the government to invest more in scientific research. Compared to other European countries the Netherlands is lagging behind while fundamental research is exactly what is needed to tackle global problems like climate change, the rector explained. D66 leader Alexander Pechtold backed up this plea in his impassioned speech in which he underlined the importance of engineers and scientists.

Dutch government spending on R&D in general is already quite low in the Netherlands. And of what there is, said the rector, relatively little goes on research on science and technology: just 39%, while this is 50% in Belgium and 60% in Germany. In his speech he called on the incoming government in The Hague to rectify this situation.

Baaijens’ speech also highlighted the enormous happiness and pride he felt in yet another record number of new students. But he also warned that the university is now running at full capacity and that staff are coming under a particularly high level of work pressure. TU/e had already announced that four of the study programs would be incorporating a student limit in order to be able to guarantee quality, and the rector noted today that he could not exclude the possibility of more limits to follow.

Pechtold: more scope for more growth in student numbers
In his speech Alexander Pechtold suggested that the Dutch universities of technology (TU’s) should actually be given more scope for more growth in student numbers, and that the TU’s must be helped to achieve this. His vision also sees engineers and scientists as crucial to solving the problems faced by the world at this current time.

Which is why researchers must be allowed to do fundamental science without hindrance, he said. He also had an urgent request for the current generation of TU students: don’t go for a career in finance or politics. “We need your minds to move matter, not money or paperwork.”

Culture shift needed
In his address the rector also announced the appointment of the first Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) of TU/e: professor Evangelia Demerouti. She will help produce a shift in culture so that more momentum is created in promoting diversity among TU/e personnel.

“The diversity in our student population is growing steadily,” says rector Frank Baaijens, “with more and more female and international students coming to our university. Diversity is a valuable asset because we want to attract the most talented people. But among our staff this growth in diversity is, unfortunately, less evident. So we need a shift in culture. That is not an easy process. So we have appointed a Chief Diversity Officer as an initial step.”