Students and staff must have more say

With Bussemaker’s new plan, students and staff have more of a say in who runs the university. But according to the Socialist Party (SP), nothing is changing.

The minister decided to strengthen employee participation at research universities and universities of applied sciences after the occupation of the Maagdenhuis in Amsterdam and the mismanagement at a few educational institutions. Students and staff have to have a bigger say, she believes. But the parties in the House of Representatives feel that her plans do not go far enough.

Her legislative proposal was previously dismissed as ‘predominantly cosmetic’ and ‘absolutely inadequate’. Bussemaker has now provided more of an explanation about how she wants to strengthen democracy at academic institutions. Students and staff members must be closely involved via the university councils in the appointment of the members of the University Board, she says.


The recruitment of directors has to done via an ‘open and transparent’ procedure. The employee participation councils are therefore allowed to give advice on what kind of candidate should be sought out. They are also allowed to express what they think about the candidates in a confidential meeting and give advice about who is eventually chosen.

SP parliamentarian Jasper van Dijk calls this a missed opportunity. ‘You would think that the minster would have gotten straight to work on this. Will we be getting directors with a feeling for education and a dislike of money-gobbling construction projects from now on? I doubt it, because it is still the job of the Supervisory Board to appoint the directors. The Supervisory Board decides upon policy with the Board of the University from their administrative ivory towers. Isn’t that exactly the sort of old boys’ network we wanted to get away from?’

Perverse incentives

Van Dijk has therefore submitted a number of proposals in order to, in his own words, get rid of top-down management and the prevailing focus on returns. ‘With this plan, the SP is taking a knife to the old boys’ network where jobs were allocated in a shady fashion. We are giving students and teachers an out-and-out say and bringing an end to the perverse incentives in finance.’

Van Dijk wants (among other things) the University Board to be directly chosen by personnel and students. Moreover, he feels that the performance agreements have to be abolished and scientific research has to be safe-guarded from commercial influences. The Member of Parliament also wants university buildings to be placed in the hands of the government. ‘Nowadays, directors are more concerned with real estate than education.’

On Thursday, all of his proposals and Bussemaker’s plan will be discussed in the House of Representatives.