Amsterdam School of Communication Research / ASCoR

Social sciences: vision, responsibility and dynamism

Paul Schnabel presents Social Sciences Sector Plan to Minister Bussemaker

30 October 2014

Over the past few decades, the social sciences have evolved into solution-generating sciences. This development is described in the Social Sciences Sector Plan, presented to Minister of Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker on Monday 27 October. The social sciences have major social and economic value. This is one of the key conclusions of the report by the independent Social Sciences Sector Plan Committee chaired by Paul Schnabel.

The social sciences are uniquely interconnected with social issues and policy matters, in areas including general and mental healthcare, the labour market, environmental issues, housing, politics and citizenship. The social sciences thus represent an essential high-value contribution to the Netherlands' 'learning economy'.
Among other purposes, the Social Sciences Sector Plan serves as a background document to the Ministry of Education's Science Vision, which is soon to be published.

Growing pressure

As the report underlines, social scientific research in the Netherlands meets the highest international standards. The Netherlands is also known for the high quality of research results made possible through European Commission Framework Programmes.
Some 20% of the Dutch student population are enrolled in a social sciences study programme. The social sciences thus represent an important contribution to the professional population. Graduates are highly versatile and enjoy excellent career prospects. However, the growing number of students has increased pressure on the education system over the past few years. This effect is further amplified by the low funding factor and systematic decline in the amount of available government funding per student. As a result, academic staff have less time to carry out their research tasks and overall pressure on research activities has increased.


The committee has formulated several recommendations in an effort to ensure that the social sciences sector can continue to play its crucial role in the future. For instance, the committee advocates continuation of the current interrelationship between research and education, and a funding system that will facilitate such ties. It also calls for strengthening the organisational structure of the social sciences in order to increase administrative effectiveness. The committee also recommends the establishment of a talent programme for young researchers, and suggests that all current clinical Master's programmes should be both selective and offered on a two-year basis.

About the committee

The Social Sciences Sector Plan was prepared at the request of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, following consultations with the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). TheSocial Sciences Discipline Body (DSW), comprising the deans of the various social sciences faculties, appointed an independent committee of experts headed by Mr Paul Schnabel, sociologist and professor at Utrecht University to this end. Edward de Haan, dean of the University of Amsterdam's (UvA) Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences serves as chairman of the DSW.