On June 16th, 2011, the Faculty of Science at Utrecht University announced that the Astronomical Institute was no longer part of the profile of the faculty. The SIU director (C. U. Keller) was informed in a meeting with the dean about one week before the official announcement - considering the history of events, this came as a total surprise to the institute staff, but it very soon became clear that there was no chance of reversing the decision. It was a done deal.
It was known some time in advance that the faculty was facing a difficult financial situation, which in fact had led the previous dean (A. Bliek) to resign in June 2010 because of disagreement with the University Board over how to handle the situation. To cut a long story short, about 16 million euros had to be shaved off a budget of 150 million euros. An interim dean (psychopharmacist Jan van Ree) was appointed, and in November 2010 a "Vision Document" was published in which it was explicitly stated that Astronomy would be kept as part of the Beta faculty. This decision was, however, reversed by the new dean (Gerrit van Meer), undoubtedly after having had his arm twisted by the University Board who saw this as an opportunity to further their vision of a university with a stronger emphasis on science with direct, short-term industrial and commercial applications ("valorisation" is the keyword here). Within the Faculty of Science, the top priorities in the new structure were stated as: "Life Sciences", "Earth and Sustainability" and "Foundations of Natural Sciences". At the end, the selection of research groups belonging to each of these categories was a fairly arbitrary process, and it is not clear why, for example, neither Astronomy or Solar Cell research fit within the profile.
As of June 2012, all activities of the Institute, including both teaching and research, have ended. A 370-year old tradition in astronomy teaching and research at Utrecht University, only 6 years less than the history of the University itself, has thus come to an end.
On this page I have collected a number of links pertaining to the closure of the Astronomical Institute.
- Sterrenkundigen zit vertrek nog lang niet lekker (DUB 29 October 2012)
- Brief aan Universiteit Utrecht CvB by Prof. Cees de Jager (28 October 2012)
- Sterrekundig Instituut Utrecht: The Last Years by Christoph Keller
- "Dear Colleague" letter (by Bram Achterberg) explaining the circumstances of the SIU closure (17 April 2012)
- Public lectures by Kees de Jager and Ed van den Heuvel (5 April 2012, Aula, Academiegebouw)
- The closure of the Astronomical Institute by Rob Rutten
- Na 370 jaar afscheid van sterrenkunde (2) (DUB)
- Na 370 jaar afscheid van sterrenkunde (1) (DUB)
- Eindelijk formeel akkoord Sterrenkunde (DUB)
- Utrecht research to be continued at other NOVA institutes (NOVA press release)
- SRON Utrecht announces likely move to Amsterdam, following closure of the SIU
- Conference: 370 Years of Astronomy in Utrecht (Noordwijkerhout, 2 - 5 April, 2012) with photos by Hans Nieuwenhuijzen
- Press statement on the closure of the SIU (June 2011)
- NOVA lives / Utrecht Update (by Sarah Kendrew)
- Good night and good luck, Utrecht Astronomers (by Sarah Kendrew)
- Austerity bites in Utrecht ("The e-Astronomer", Andy Lawrence)
- Sterrekundig Instituut Utrecht - brief history by Rob Rutten