Since the establishment of UCR in 2004, we have been renting the entire former town hall complex (three buildings in total), from the Municipality of Middelburg. This includes the building where the Sterrenwacht is currently based (Theodore). In 2017, UCR decided to rent out this building to the Sterrenwacht for a fixed period of 10 years. The rent was set at 750 euros per month and included cleaning, heating, internet, security, and maintenance. Additionally, the Municipality pays UCR 16000 euros per year for housing the Sterrenwacht. The rent has not been increased since the start of the agreement in 2017. Yet the costs for housing the Sterrenwacht far exceed the money UCR receives from the Sterrenwacht and the Municipality. In effect, UCR has been subsidizing the Sterrenwacht for years.

At the moment, UCR has around 600 students and we are seeing the student numbers grow steadily. We expect to have some 650 students pursue their university studies in Middelburg in the not-too-distant future. This means that we will continue to require more space, particularly classrooms. While the municipality kindly offered to look for additional space for UCR within the city center, the costs of equipping a new campus building with all access, infrastructure and amenities needed to provide quality education for students from all over the world, has been a limiting factor. Moreover, it seems like a mismanagement of funds to invest in additional off-campus buildings when a building already rented by us and fully equipped and connected to UCR is ready to be used by our students.

In early 2022, the Sterrenwacht indicated to UCR and the municipality of Middelburg that they have the ambition to grow and that the current housing is too small and not suitable to support this growth. As a result, UCR has been under the impression for a long time that the Observatory is looking for a new location.

For these 3 reasons, UCR informed the Sterrenwacht that we will not extend the rental contract come 2027. We did so in full consultation with, and approval from the Municipality. Contrary to what has been said in the press, this is not a termination of an existing agreement. It was not done without consultation. And it was not done to harm the Sterrenwacht. In fact, we have offered our support in the past and continue to offer our support in helping them find an alternative building.

We understand that the Sterrenwacht is important for the local community – this is also why we have stuck to the extremely favorable rental agreement for years and subsidized their stay in a building that we ourselves have growing need for. But we also feel that UCR has a vital role to play in the community. We contribute immensely to the social fabric of the community and the local economy. We offer the only academic higher education in the whole province. 600 students from all over the world live and study in Middelburg, breathing life into the city. We employ about 80 people, most of whom live within the province. We helped to fund and set up the Joint Research Center Zeeland, a beacon of research and technology equal to what is available in the Randstad. Finally, we are also a co-founder of the Delta Climate Center that is bringing millions in investment to Zeeland. Just like the Sterrenwacht, UCR has an important role to play – and the city must be big enough for both institutions.

We remain committed to working with the Municipality and Sterrenwacht to find a solution for the Sterrenwacht so that both institutes can continue to play a significant role in the city. Anyone curious about our college, how we work and what we have to offer, is more than welcome to join our Open Day for the public on May 25. In light of our 20th anniversary, we are also organizing Lustrum Lectures (in Dutch) for anyone to join, free of charge. Find more information and sign up via