The outcome of the battle for ABN Amro between the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Barclays will not just affect the banking sector but also have an impact on Dutch higher education. The Volkskrant reports this morning that Barclays wants to invest 20 Million Euros in the Facult of Economics of the University of Amsterdam. The university can use the money to attract top professors in order to improve the quality of its education and research. In return, the faculty will change the name of ‘part of its faculty’ into the Barclays Financial Centre. This will be announced by the university later today.

This is quite a unique development in the Netherlands. It might be getting slightly more common to nameBarclays Financial Center chairs or buildings after their sponsors, but a whole department or center… I am sure it will cause some protests and resistance from students and academics. I am particularly interested in the reaction of the academic staff in the faculty.

I wouldn’t mind too much if someone gave my department 20 million euros, as long as the deal included the necessary clauses on academic independence. I would suggest another name though, something more…academic. This way it sounds more like a branch of Barclays than a center of the University of Amsterdam. Why can’t they just call it something like the Barclays School of Finance?

UPDATE: ScienceGuide has more background information on the issue. The center will be part of the Amsterdam Business School (that is of course if Barclays actually does take over ABN Amro). Arnoud Boot, Professor in Corporate Finance negotiated the deal. He says that the cooperation with Barclays should be seen as a wake up call for the rest of the banking sector:

While banks easily spend 300 million on consultancy, they think that for universities, contributions between 100,000 and 300,000 euros are sufficient. After all, universities are funded by the government. But that won’t do the job. They really need to think about contributions in the range of 20 million. This needs a change in mentality, and the deal with Barclays is a way to bring about that change in mentality.

Very good point!

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