University doesn't want to grow any further

UU: 40,000 students is all we can take

UIT 2019. Photo: DUB

UU sounds like a mother warning her son "for the very last time". The university has been reiterating that it doesn't want to grow any more for years, only to announce in October that the number of students has grown yet again.

In 2018, a limit was set at 30,000 students, the memo recollects. Six years later, there are at least 10,000 more. "We didn't manage to realise our ambitions, so it would be reasonable to see what we need right now to stop growing," writes the Executive Board.

Lack of awareness
The memo is the culmination of a three-year process, at the beginning of which the Executive Board expressed (including in an interview with DUB) that it was necessary to restrain the number of students. That Autumn, the number of students had exploded, growing by 15 percent to approximately 39,000. What's more, the number of students was expected to keep rising.

An analysis of the development of the educational offer subsequently showed that it could be quite a challenge to limit the number of students. The faculties didn't seem very aware of the university's problems. As a result, their plans to change the educational offer barely took the goal of reducing the number of students into account.

That has changed since then, says the Executive Board in the memo. The faculties and the university administration have agreed to work together to ensure that the number of Bachelor's students does not grow. At the Master's level, there should be only "controlled growth", which will require continuous deliberation and finetuning.

Pressure everywhere
The memo comes at a time when UU's expected growth could be adjusted downwards. The university now forecasts a growth of 6 percent by 2030 instead of 15 percent. But that still means there will be 3,000 more students in six years if the policy doesn't change, the Executive Board warns.

The board concludes that the pressure on teachers, lecture halls and other UU facilities, as well as on room rentals in Utrecht, will only keep on rising, which can negatively impact the quality of education and research. Students' wellbeing may be affected too, especially considering that student financing provided by the Dutch government does not grow accordingly. 

No more English-taught programmes
Furthermore, the board expects the nationwide discussions about slowing down the anglicisation of higher education to help. Last month, UU decided not to add any more English-taught Bachelor's programmes to its offer. It will also significantly reduce the recruitment of students abroad. Additionally, a law establishing an enrolment cap for English-taught programmes is imminent. 

Other measures mentioned by the memo include enrolment caps for programmes growing considerably, no new interdisciplinary programmes without phasing out other programmes, and improving coordination with the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences.