Budget 2022 puts focus on workload reduction

TU/e’s budget for 2022 and the coming years prioritizes efforts to improve the staff-student ratio and to stabilize the current number of 13,000 students. This will result in a negative budget during the coming years, but the budget is expected to be back in balance again by 2026.

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For years, TU/e presented zero-based budgets. After all, making a profit isn’t what higher education is about. However, the university never aimed for a negative balance either, even though there is a logical explanation for it: a budget had already been set aside for certain projects but no money had been spent on these projects yet. But new programs and projects also require financing, and that is why the university needs to use some of its reserves: over four million euros in 2022.

The bulk of that money will be used to increase the quality of research and education and to lower the staff-student ratio, which is currently at 1:19 and needs to be lowered to 1:17 over the next few years. A large sum of money will be spent on that. “Appointing extra scientists simply costs a lot of money,” director Finance & Control Ruud van de Donk says. “The university easily pays between three and four hundred thousand euros a year per assistant, associate or full professor, including all facilities, of course.”

But appointing more scientists is not the only way to lower the staff-student ratio. During the strategic dialogue that took place in the spring of 2021, it was decided that the university wants to stabilize the current number of 13,000 students. That decision requires a different budget than the one for 2021, when the university expected student numbers to climb to 15,000. This also puts an end to the increase in student numbers and the resulting workload for staff members. This needs to lead to more scope for research activities, student coaching, and the further roll out of Challenge-Based Learning.

Spending priorities of the 2022 budget:
  • Small-scale on-campus education
  • Educational innovation
  • Digitalization
  • Large-scale investments in research and top scientists
  • Operational matters and management (SQUAD)
Recognition and Rewards

There is no specific mention in the budget document of the new appraisal system ‘Recognition and Rewards,’ but it has been incorporated, Van de Donk says. “Recognition and Rewards attaches greater importance to educational processes and educational innovation. That won’t cost the university extra money, but it does yield a greater diversity of scientific careers. And that takes time and requires a cultural shift.”

Contract extensions

The money from the NPO funds, short for ‘National Programme of Education’ (funds allocated by the government to repair and develop education during and after corona, ed.) will be used, among other things, to finance contract extensions resulting from delay due to corona. This applies to all temporary scientific staff, including PDEngs. “This will be enough money for everyone who is entitled to such an extension,” the University Council’s financial committee concluded during the final council meeting of 2021 on the 13th of December.


Van de Donk: “We also want to invest in future-proof buildings.” The budget includes a chapter about this as well, based on the Campus 2030 investment agenda for real estate. The renovation of the Gemini building, where the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering are located, is an important project that weighs on the budget in the short term. But a new cleanroom and several small investments within this domain will also take up much of the budget over the next few years. The current cleanroom needs to be replaced.

Effect of SQUAD

A share of the resources will be used to further reduce work pressure in education and research. In addition, the university will need to spend other recourses (such as the NPO funds, ed.) to meet deadlines that were agreed upon, in line with the underlying plans. Otherwise, the university runs the risk of having to repay these funds. Projects such as SQUAD could however lead to a break-even in 2025. Van de Donk emphasizes that SQUAD isn’t so much about generating financial savings as it is about quality improvement that might however have financial consequences. “If you approach work in a more uniform and efficient way, it will also cost less, as a general rule.” The Finance service expects that the budget will be back in balance again by 2025.

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