UU won’t spend extra money on student clubs

Utrecht University spends an annual 1.2 million euros on study and student associations. The university does this because they feel academic education isn’t limited to the classroom. “Association in the areas of study, social gatherings, sports, culture, debate and philosophies contribute to an inspiring, social and active life alongside your studies,” a note to the University Council about board subsidies says. Almost the entire amount is spent on subsidies used by student board members to compensate for (possible) study delays.

This pot of money, to which the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences also contributes almost 300,000 euros, is redistributed every three years. That means the discussion about how to distribute it takes place every three years as well. Because which cluster (sports, culture, study, social, and other) gets which subsidies? And why does one cluster get more than another? And is the monthly stipend sufficient? In 2016, the discussion resulted in a higher subsidy, from 289 to 425 euros a month. The sports associations also received more subsidies, at the expense of the social students’ associations, because the total membership of the sports clubs had increased by 26.8 percent.  

Unfair distribution vs. unfair comparison
Still, party Lijst Vuur thinks the newer distribution isn’t fair. The party thinks it’s odd that the eight social students’ associations together receive a total of 285,175 euros in subsidies, while the 18 sports clubs together receive a total of 165,325 euros annually, and six sports clubs don’t get anything at all. Vuur-member Emma Carpay: “The sports clubs, with their 6131 members, receive 22 per cent of subsidies in their cluster, whereas the social students’ associations with their 5842 members receive 39 per cent of the money from that cluster.” Carpay had earlier compared the subsidies of social associations with those of study associations: “The boards of the fraternity and sorority (‘corps’) together receive almost twice as much (100,725 euros) as 21 study associations of the Faculty of Humanities (65,025 euros). It’s high time the situation of all underappreciated associations vastly improves.”

The issue is dividing the student members of the University Council, because the Partij van de Utrechtse Student (PvdUS) interprets the numbers differently. They say it’s not the distribution, but the comparison Lijst Vuur makes is unfair. The PvdUS says a board member of a study association doesn’t have nearly as much delay in their studies as a board member at a social association, because the scope of the board work is ‘different’. “Social students’ associations have more active members, as well as their own building that needs to be maintained.” It makes sense, the party says, that the study associations receive fewer subsidies. Still, the PvdUS isn’t entirely against Lijst Vuur’s plea. The party would also like to see more funding be awarded to student clubs, as long as it’s not at the expense of the current associations.

Employees agree study association is ‘underrewarded’
Last Monday showed just how much the discussion is alive amongst student board members, when dozens of students turned up to the University Council meeting. It was the first time that the parties addressed the university board orally instead of through a letter. Not much news was spoken, except by Wim de Smidt, a staff member of the Faculty of Law. He hadn’t spoken up in this discussion before. De Smidt said he noticed a trend of teachers coming to study associations more and more often to ask for help to organize activities. In this, study associations “are important for education and science. The university wouldn’t be as it is without students’ efforts.” Smidt said those efforts deserve to be recognized in some way. His conclusion was that in the current distribution, study associations are ‘underrewarded’.

Anton Pijpers, chairman of the Executive Board, says the debate is interesting, but he’s also immediately very clear: “Everything can be up for discussion, but the total amount will remain the same.” If the University Council wants to give the study associations higher subsidies, that will only be possible at the expense of the board subsidies of other associations. Pijpers warns the council members to take caution in redistributing funds, not in the least because the parties, he says, seem to be talking almost exclusively about study associations and social associations, even though a redistribution would also affect the sports and cultural clubs. The sports clubs are experiencing the biggest growth, while the cultural clubs are small in number “and yet very important”, Pijpers says. The chairman calls for an “evolution instead of a revolution”. What direction the evolution will take, Pijpers couldn’t say.

The topic of distribution of board subsidies will likely return to the University Council’s agenda before the summer.

Distribution of board subsidies in academic year 2017-2018

The table below shows the expenditures of the UU and the HU in board subsidies in the academic year 2017-2018. If the table states that a cluster receives 389 board subsidies, that means they receive 389 board months that are each worth 425 euros a month. The number of associations these subsidies are divided amongst are stated underneath the header ‘associations supported’. The number between brackets is the number of associations acknowledged by the HU and UU. In some cases, this number is higher than the number of associations that receive subsidies.


Type of association

Number of associations supported

Number of subsidies

Total amount in euros

Subsidies UU

Subsidies HU

Social students’ associations






Sports associations

18 (24)





Cultural associations

2 (8)





Study associations UU

57 (60)





Study associations HU

17 (23)





Other organizations

25 (35)






127 (158)





Translation: Indra Spronk