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VVD MP: The university should focus on science

Last week I raised parliamentary questions about the distribution of our scientific funding to various sectors. These questions were not thanked by, among others, the humanities scholar Hieke Huistra, who accused me in this paper of wanting to divide our research funds on the basis of current demand and future earning capacity in the Netherlands.

My questions did not come out of thin air, but are the result of several recommendations of the Ministry. In recent years, this has often been heard from consulting firms and bodies like AWTI that they must make clearer choices. While our science is of high quality, national efforts in this area are fragmented, with something in it for everyone and no clear focus.

Even an advisory committee, set up by the ministry, explicitly advised in 2019 to invest heavily in science and technology in order to be able to face the future. Thus, choosing to focus on those segments is not a hobby for VVD, but something that experts say time and time again is an absolute must.

China is getting closer to the west

The current regulation of education is not commensurate with the challenges of the future. These mainly require reinforcement in the fields of science, technology, and medicine, while the social sciences and humanities account for a third of the Netherlands’ faculty and more than half of university students.

In the meantime, we have a shortage of people who can handle the energy transition and aging, a shortage of people who can build, a shortage of all kinds of highly specialized tech professionals, to name a few. We are already severely affected by the lack of all levels of education, and China is now approaching the West from a scientific point of view.

The fact that I am keen on this does not mean that I am denying the importance of the social and human sciences and the usefulness of interdisciplinarity. It’s also really clear to me that the social sciences and the humanities are close. The size of this sector, due to the number of students, is the reason for the large workload in this field, and thus the perceived shortage of money.

Incidentally, this experience contrasts with the fact that our spending on higher education is above the OECD and EU average, even without this government’s new investments. But instead of making more financial space structurally for a distribution that is lopsided according to experts, you can also temporarily reduce the pressure of work and make a serious assessment before making a structural investment.

As a Member of Parliament, I will not define what is “good” and “bad” science. exactly the contrary. I want to make sure that Minister Dejgraf makes an objective assessment of the results we want to achieve through our science policy. And that this assessment is also left to an independent party and all concerned, not only educational institutions. It is up to the House of Representatives to keep the minister’s focus on the division across sectors, as many millions have yet to be distributed.

Read also:

Is science worth making money for VVD?

Hattie van der Wood missed some of the nuances of her parliamentary questions, Heck Hestra wrote in her science column. Her claim that the social sciences and humanities are most questionable.

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