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Incentive to reduce work pressure falls in good spirit with the University Council

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The University Council has agreed with the 2022 budget and the boost of 50 million euros to relieve the work pressure. “Good employment practice,” says the staff section. “It is great that we’re not waiting on The Hague but that UU has taken matters into their own hands to improve the quality of education”, say the students.

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The 2022 budget was an agenda point of the meeting between the University Council and the Executive Board (CvB) last Monday. The document provides an insight into the expected income and expenditure of the university throughout the coming calendar year.

The university expects to receive 996 million euros. This amount comes primarily from government subsidies and the tuition fees paid by students. UU expects to spend a little over a billion euros for the first time in its history. That means that the expenses will be almost 21 million higher than the income.

New insights
The budget has recently been adjusted. It seems that in 2021 – just like previous years – less money has been spent than budgeted. The university also received back 18 million from overpaid VAT. In total, the university expects to have spent 50 million euros less than expected. The Executive Board wants to use this money to tackle the work pressure and employ more university teachers with a permanent contract. In 2022, the first 5 million will be distributed among the faculties and University College Utrecht.

Another recent adjustment is the result of the revised budgets of three faculties. In the past few years, many faculties spent less than estimated beforehand, which means there was money left and faculty reserves grew at the end of the year. For years, they were prompted to make the best possible use of their financial situation and submit a realistic budget. This year, the board has increased their pressure on this matter, causing three faculties to adjust their budgets.

Additionally, the university expects more windfalls in the near future and anticipates on them. By the absence of these windfalls, no crisis is looming because the 10 million can be paid from the reserves. “Our ambition is that the resources will be depleted, but that simply hasn’t worked out the previous years”, says vice-chair Margot van der Starre as a reaction to the adjustments.

Taking matters into its own hands
The students are glad that the university will spend millions over the next six years to relieve the work pressure. “It is great that we’re not waiting until the government pledges the 1.1 billion but that the board takes matters into their own hands.” Appointing extra university teachers will improve the quality of the education, they think. However, they do question why the faculty councils aren’t given the right to vote on the tonnes the faculties will receive.

“We vote here”, says chair Pijpers. “The faculty council will have an advisory right about the implementation.” Vice-chair Van der Starre adds: “Faculties will have to submit a plan which has to be approved by us. Only then we will transfer the money. The money remains a central resource.” 

The faculty council, so they say, has a vital role in critically following the “depletion of the money”. Not only the money from the boost but also what the faculties intend to spend in their budgets so that no money is leftover. When the faculty spends the money from the boost and achieves their own budget target, both will enlarge the quality of education, says Van der Starre.

Employees’ monitor
The staff section of the council has questions about one of the instruments that the CvB wants to use to measure whether the work pressure is decreasing or not. An employees' monitor will be created after a survey among the staff. The council members question whether this is a good idea because the survey will only be conducted once every two years. Can you wait this long to possibly adjust?

The board says that there are more instruments. For instance, there are regular checks on the increase of permanent contracts and the decrease of temporary contracts. Additionally, faculties have to evaluate the current state of affairs yearly with the board. Van de Starre: “We will follow this intensively because the work pressure has to be reduced.”

The board will also monitor more strictly whether faculties will use their reserves to invest in education and research to lower the work pressure. Faculties are allowed to keep a maximum of 12,5 per cent of their budget as savings. When that percentage is exceeded, they will have to deposit it back to the university budget. “That didn’t happen consequently, but we will pay closer attention to that,” says Van der Starre.

Good employment practice
Katell Laveant of UUinActie is happy with the boost and sees it as a sign of good employment practice. “This board is the first one that listens to WOinActie, 07 and Casual Academy to take measures against work pressure. They are also responding to what the government asks: universities must first invest their own money. 50 million is the first step.”

Gert Folkers of list Vlam asks how much money is needed to give all employees a decent appointment with education and research tasks. “The question at the Hague amount to 1.1 billion, which would mean that we would receive approximately 10 million extra per year. The 50 million was leftover from one year, and we invest it in 6 years. Last year 20 million was leftover. Can’t we agree to always spend what is leftover from the budget on this goal?”

Pijpers won’t make that promise: “In principle, the government must now deliver. Now we invest in people, but we could have different priorities like IT or housing in the future. Should The Hague not deliver, then we will have to make choices.”

Millions for cyber security
What also stands out in this budget is the fact that millions more will be spent on cyber security over the next three years. In 2022 this amounts to over 2.3 million, in 2023 almost 1.3 million and in 2024 an additional 8.5 tonnes. Furthermore, the board ITS will receive an additional 1.2 million yearly to deal with the increasing demand for ITS support. In addition, almost three tonnes extra must go to the University Administration to pay for a new health and safety service and 80 thousand euros to fill the new ombudsman position.

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