Lower House can’t agree on say for students, employees

The political parties in the Lower House want students and employees to have more power. They just cannot agree on how much.

A legislative proposal by minister of education Jet Bussemaker to increase co-determination at universities, prompted by several cases of mismanagement at Dutch academic institutes, is causing a stir. Previously, the parties felt that her proposals were not far-reaching enough. Now, it appears that opinions are rather divided after all.

The SP is the loudest voice in the debate. MP Jasper van Dijk thinks that university directors ‘rule’ their institutes ‘as though they were their own little kingdoms’. ‘This is due to the management model which gives all the power to the directors and the supervisory board. They’re not focused on education, they’re being distracted by their egos’, he says. One of the examples he used in his argument was the plans by the RUG to open a campus in China.

That is why the party thinks the university directors should be elected from now on. They also think that students and employees should be able to use their co-determination to fire failing directors in case of mismanagement.


D66 also feels that students and employees should have more power. Student and staff participation should, among other things, give them the right to consent rather than merely the right to consultation to ensure that directors will not be able to do things behind their backs. ‘But I do have my doubts about an Idols-type election for directors,’ says MP Paul van Meenen.

Mohammed Mohandis of the PvdA also thinks students and lecturers should get a bigger say in things. Rather than elections, he and D66 propose that at least half of the selection board that hires new directors should consist of co-determination members.

Running wild

Opposing them are the VVD, CDA, PVV, and ChristenUnie. They feel students should participate in management. ‘The Maagdenhuis protest has a lot of parties’ imaginations running wild. We will not be hijacked by the occupiers. Most of the minister’s proposals are just fine’, says Pieter Duisenberg of the VVD.

The opposition is of the opinion that the current legislative proposal has plenty to offer. Moreover, they say that many co-determination rights are barely utilised if at all currently. ‘You shouldn’t burden students with responsibilities they don’t want. They hardly vote during elections,’ opines CDA MP Michel Rog

Tuition-free board membership

Together, the parties submitted 41 amendments. They did agree on a few points. Obliging supervisors to report abuse is out, and tuition-free board membership is set for implementation.

‘We have to support student managers who commit full-time for a whole year. That is why we are submitting an amendment concerning tuition-free management. This way they wouldn’t have to pay tuition for an education they are not getting, but they can still apply for a grant’, says Duisenberg.

Minister Bussemaker needs time to respond to all the proposals. The debate will resume after that. When that will be is not yet known.