Oh, the humanities!

Paul van Gerven is an editor at Bits&Chips.

Leestijd: 3 minuten

It’s more than a little awkward that here in the Netherlands, STEM and non-STEM scientists are pitted against each other over a couple of million euros. Meanwhile, our German neighbors will be increasing their public-research budget by three percent per year, every year, for the next decade. A fine example of divide and conquer by Education Secretary Van Engelshoven, one would think, except that the STEM sector has never seemed vocal or powerful enough to be of much use to her.

The liberal arts, humanities and medical sciences, on the other hand, took it to the streets. They take great offense at seeing their budgets getting cut, with the proceeds going to technical universities. It’s seen as a manifestation of widespread disdain for their fields, which are made to be less important than the natural and engineering sciences. The protests staged in Leiden at the opening of the academic year have been described as markedly ‘unacademic’, with toga-wearing participants yelling and booing and speakers calling for the Secretary’s resignation.

Of course, it hurts when something is taken from you, even more when that same thing is doled out to someone sitting right next to you. But are the arts and humanities indeed treated as second-rate sciences in the Netherlands?

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