The BEST funds: Call for more permanent lecturers
Will the revenues of the BEST reorganization be beneficial for the permanently tenured positions or rather for the temporarily contracted lecturers? That was the question posed during the past two meetings of the Participation Council, the Finance Committee and the University Council. The answer is still pending.
There is a commitment to spend the proceeds of the BEST reorganization on education. At least that was the reward (the Executive Board speaks of an incentive) that was promised to us as a result of the painful operation. How the BEST money should actually be spent has not been clearly agreed upon yet. “More hands on the table/Meer handen aan het bord” is the slogan, but the type of contract that will be given into these hands will be a clear matter of discussion. Will the money be spent on limited and temporary teacher contracts (i.e. contract durations of one year to 23 months max) or on permanent contracts with tenured teachers and university professors?
The difference between the position of a plain faculty teacher/lecturer and that of an UD (assistent professor) is the research time of 30 percent included in the job function of the latter. Because of this research, the contract of an UD is usually of a far more permanent nature. A teacher’s job position is generally granted for up to 23 months because otherwise a permanent contract (a so-called tenured position) should be offered. On a national level, up to 56 percent of all teachers at universities have a temporary contract. On top of that, VAWO, the Dutch Scientists’ Union, states that women are being discriminated in this matter as well. The figures show that over two-thirds of the male teachers have a tenured position (i.e. a permanent job contract), compared to only half of the women.
Back to the BEST funds. “During the past five years, the stimulus at the University of Tilburg has always been: provide for teachers’ functions, not for university professor positions,” Marinus Verhagen of AbvaKabo stated during the Finance Committee meeting. AbvaKabo would like to have this changed. The councilgroup wants to see the BEST funds spent on structural, permanent positions, not on temporary teachers. If the funds are available for a longer period, there is really no reason for the faculties to work with short-term contracts only. In addition, the personnel groups wish to discuss the nature of the various positions: “At an earlier stage, the Executive Board itself has suggested to take into account the necessary and required research time for tenured university teaching positions. We truly appreciate this option and therefore we want a good internal discussion about this at our university. The Board has proposed that the faculties pay for the research time included in the university professors’ positions themselves. This is another reason for faculties to create job positions without that research time.”
Last year, it was agreed upon – within the frame of the collective agreement – to reduce temporary contracts at universities to 22 percent. But according to VAWO (Scientists’ Union), universities can actually escape this agreement.
The problem with the temporary positions is that education at universities is getting worse. In addition, those teachers must endure long-term job insecurity. Also, the outflow of knowledge, the so-called brain drain, constitutes a severe problem. In most cases, a teacher/lecturer gains a year’s experience at Tilburg University, after which he/she has to leave again, taking all gained knowledge along. It may be a cost-effective system, but in qualitative terms not desirable at all. Therefore, the subject will be an agenda topic again during the next University Council meeting.
This text is available in Dutch in the Universmagazine issue 12/annual 53