Netherlands Labour Authority report

Another damning report on workload and undesirable behaviour at universities

A high proportion of teaching and academic personnel at universities in the Netherlands suffer from a heavy workload and undesirable behaviour. Universities have not been able to improve things over the last few years. This is the conclusion of the Netherlands Labour Authority in a damning report. Universities are given until 2025 to comply with their legal obligations for staff welfare. Should they not do so, the Labour Authority will enforce it.

(Foto: Justyna Botor)

This is stated in the Psychosocial Workload at Dutch Universities report that was published on 14 May. The Netherlands Labour Authority held interviews with the staff of employee representative bodies and confidential advisors at 14 public universities. It also analysed documentation related to health and safety policies and ran an online questionnaire among academic and teaching staff that was filled in 9,100 times.

Report on TU Delft

A spokesperson says that there are no exceptions among the universities and the findings relate to all 14 universities. The executive boards and the personnel representation bodies will receive the part of the report that about their specific institutions this week. A TU Delft spokesperson announced that the Executive Board is intending to make its report public.

The general findings of the Netherlands Labour Authority are similar to those of the Inspectorate of Education about TU Delft. The Netherlands Labour Authority writes that the issues about workload and undesirable behaviour have been known for a while, but that universities have not managed to systematically deal with them. ‘Measures are mostly focused on individuals and not sufficiently on dealing with the underlying causes.’ Furthermore, the measures that are there are often not known to the employees.

Strong conclusions

In a notice on its Dutch language website, the Netherlands Labour Authority calls its own conclusions ‘strong’. More than 70% of the employees experience more than occasional stress because of the workload. Many seem to have to ‘perform several tasks that are not part of their assigned job. The main causes of work pressure are education and research funding, too many tasks, performance pressure, and ambition.’

Of the respondents, 54% say that they have experienced undesirable behaviour in the last two years, and 69% see that colleagues have problems with this behaviour.  Bullying is the most common, followed by discrimination. The Netherlands Labour Authority says that the respondents put this largely down to the ‘hierarchical structure’ and ‘pressure to perform’.


The Netherlands Labour Authority’s report is a follow-up to previous investigations it held between 2017 and 2021. The universities are now given up to 2025 to set things right and to comply with their legal duty of care towards their employees. Should they not manage this, the Labour Authority will enforce it. The spokesperson explains that this would involve the imposing of measures that the universities should have taken themselves.

More about this later.

Editor in chief Saskia Bonger

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