RUG plans for Rome institute garner support

In spite of objections raised by academics at the institute, the RUG will be allowed to continue its plans for the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR).
By Giulia Fabrizi

This according to the response by the NWIB (Dutch Scientific Institutes Abroad), the umbrella organisation in charge of academic institutes abroad. The NWIB debated the issue last Friday.

‘If one of the institutes has room for extra activities, like the KNIR currently does, the managing institute can take the initiative in this’, the organisation of collaborating universities said.

Groningen activities

The RUG, which manages the KNIR on behalf of six collaborating universities, wants to expand  its activities in Rome. Among other things, they want a rotating chair position for Groningen professors and to offer bachelor students the chance to explore the Mediterranean location.

Three weeks ago, they also announced that former rector Elmer Sterken will serve as interim director at the KNIR until January 1, 2020.

The academics involved in the institute were surprised by this, since Sterken speaks no Italian and is an economist.


Academics with the other universities involved in the institute were dismayed by the plans. ‘By usurping 50 percent of the activities, the RUG is turning the KNIR into one of its own foreign campuses at the expense of the national academic community’, they wrote in a petition to protest the plans.

The petition garnered more than 2,600 signatures in two weeks and was presented to the NWIB at a meeting last Friday. In its response to the RUG plans, the NWIB didn’t specifically refer to the petition, but it did say that ‘the KNIR and the other institutes will continue to be a full part of the NWIB umbrella; we will continue to manage together.’

New director

Concerning former rector Elmer Sterken’s temporary appointment as KNIR director, the NWIB didn’t mince words: they officially approved it last Friday.  They also wrote that they started proceedings to recruit a new permanent scientific director.

It’s an ‘open procedure’, which means people from all universities involved in the institute can apply to the position.



03 July 2019 | 3-7-2019, 13:19