Why is shrinking science stupid?

Why is shrinking science stupid?

The new coalition is cutting spending in higher education and science: €1 billion will be cut annually during the next cabinet period. These include fines for slow studying, fewer foreign students, and the cancellation of sector plans for higher education and research.

Overall, it is a disaster for universities, warn humanities scholars at Leiden University. “The fact that it will have dire consequences does not require academic research,” they write. Campaign website.

Remco Broecker, a professor of Korean studies at Leiden and a leading member of WOinActie, expects the cuts to have far more serious consequences than many people realize. “It’s really one of the perfect storm “What’s coming our way now,” he says. “These cuts are going to be really painful, especially with the ban on foreign students. The humanities are in huge danger.”

Not directly related

Last week he came up with this campaign. His colleagues Mikko Flor and Larissa van den Herik wanted to help immediately. In the hall of the Leiden University campus in The Hague, behind the coffee corner, they explain on Thursday afternoon that the Netherlands cannot do without them.

Why, for example, do we need to know all about Roman glass? Mico Flor, a university lecturer in ancient history, tells in an engaging way how innovations took place in the Roman Empire. Sometimes from ancient technologies that led to an inert existence.

Glass has been around for some time, explains Flor, but it was only when the Romans were able to make it transparent that it began to be used. Then it suddenly spread throughout the Roman Empire. But also for a long time. no “Control of knowledge and innovation is essential,” Flor concludes.

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Knowledge that doesn’t seem directly relevant can become so. Flor: “The humanities are like the goose with the golden eggs. You have to lay all the eggs to find the golden one.”


The group of visitors also includes MPs Luc Stoltens and Lisa Westerveld from GroenLinks-PvdA. He explains that Stoltens is always looking for new arguments to oppose the planned cuts. “And it’s good that students and academics are also taking action themselves.”

Are humanities scholars really indispensable? Yes, but you shouldn’t look at the direct return, says Stoltens. Yes, indirectly: “Especially now, in times of disinformation, scholars provide knowledge and facts.”

all over the world

Larissa van den Herik, professor of public international law, explains that she does something else: she develops new legal concepts that can make the world safer. In fifteen minutes, she takes her audience first to Ukraine, where two scholars invented the terms “genocide” and “crime against humanity” some eighty years ago. Back then they were just words, now you can take them to court.

Can we develop new terms in the same way that judges can soon punish “aggressors”? Should states that start wars be held accountable for them? This is one of the questions that experts are now pondering.

Van den Herik calls for internationalization: “People come to Leiden from all over the world to learn international law from us,” referring to Hugo de Groot, the founder of her field. “The Netherlands has always been important in this. You have to expand it, not destroy it.”

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The communications officer at the Faculty of Humanities apologizes a little for the lack of listeners: the holidays are approaching. But then, with all hostility: “We can’t wait, because a new budget is being prepared at the ministry.”

You can barely see them from the Hague University campus, the education officials now a stone’s throw away, confused about the main lines of the agreement. The campus walls are made of glass, people pass through and trams go by, but no sound gets in.

Remco Broker hopes that the universities will be able to form a united front against the government’s new policy. He fears that otherwise they will be played against each other: In the Randstad, the measures against international students will be even stricter, he thinks, than in the border and shrinking regions, where all sorts of restrictions are imposed on international students. Exceptions It is in the making. “Only unified higher education can save us.”

There will be more lunchtime lectures in the coming weeks in Leiden and The Hague. Scientists are also chiming in. Video messages One minute about the importance of their field for the Netherlands.

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