Board counts on additional means to make growth in student intake possible

The exact figures can't be found in the national budget presented yesterday, but TU/e's Executive Board nonetheless counts on additional financial means from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science that will make the future growth of student intake numbers possible. This could supposedly amount to an additional 16 million euros in 2022. According to the Executive Board, this measure has been discussed and approved already in the House of Representatives before summer recess. On this basis, the board now intends to cancel the ceiling on student numbers for three programs as of next academic year.

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The lack of transparency in the national budget, and in the Ministry’s plans in particular, deeply surprised Robert-Jan Smits. He was confronted with this in his new position as President of the Executive Board for the first time during Prince’s Day yesterday. Smits: “When you read that budget, it's quite a puzzle to find out where cuts are made and where money is added; transparency is hard to find. People sometimes complain about the lack of transparency in the budgets of the European Union, with which I had something to do in my previous job, but we’re no slouches here either.”

This particular lack of transparency concerns the amount of funding TU/e will receive to cope with the future growth of student intake numbers. The Executive Board used the university’s intranet site yesterday to announce that the total amount may rise to approximately 16 million euros. Smits and dean Frank Baaijens say that this sum has been promised to TU/e before the summer recess. And on the basis of this promise, the board made the announcement during last Monday’s university council meeting, with some reservations, that as of next academic year, it intends to cancel the ceiling on student intake numbers for Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, and Biomedical Engineering/Medical Sciences.

Intake limits

But what happens if these promises aren’t kept, or only partially? Baaijens: “We have until December 1 to inform the ministry which of our programs will have a ceiling on student numbers next academic year, and what the intake limits will be for these programs. It truly is our ambition to cancel the ceiling on student numbers for the aforementioned programs, but should developments take a different direction during the next few months as far as those extra means are concerned, we will reconsider that ambition.”

The Executive Board intends to raise the current intake limits of the other three programs with a ceiling on student numbers: Architecture, Building and Planning, Industrial Design, and Computer Science & Engineering. But that, too, depends on the extra means that will come Eindhoven’s way. That is why at this moment, Baaijens does not want to make a statement of any kind about how high these intake limits will eventually be. “We are in continuous talks over this issue with the faculty boards in question.”

Intake drop

Professor Philip de Goey, dean of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, supports the decision to cancel the ceiling on student numbers for his program. This ceiling applied to Meachanical Engineering for the first time this current academic year, and De Goey says it led to an intake drop, “but that was also true for the other programs with a ceiling on student numbers,” says the dean. “So, we prefer to get rid of it, as long as the growth remains under control.”

Professor Ingrid Heynderickx, dean of the Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, responds in a similar fashion when asked about cancelling the ceiling on student numbers for Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences. “The departments support this, because we realize that broadly-trained technical engineers are in high demand. The actual number of first-year students was below the cap in the last two years, and as a result, the department now has room for a limited growth in intake numbers. And we hope to use the extra means from the government to keep the pressure on our teaching staff at an acceptable level, should next year’s growth turn out to be much more significant than expected.”

Rector Baaijens says that the possibility that a program could face a significant growth has also been seriously considered. “To start with, we have great faith in the study-choice check. Should it show that a student isn’t suited for a program, we will give him or her a clear advice not to start with it. That’s clearly in the interest of the student as well. We’ve also gained a lot of experience in the recent past with calling in the help of student assistants. We’ve noticed, especially at Mechanical Engineering, that we were able to create a lot of flexibility in our education. And for the longer term, we have put a great deal of work into recruiting more researchers and teachers.” But Baaijens says that he doesn’t expect to see any abnormal growths in intake numbers at certain departments.

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