Poster from the 2007 University Council elections. Photo: DUB's archive.

Dutch MPs want to increase compensation for students who join councils

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If everything goes as planned, every higher education student who joins a faculty or university council will soon get more monetary compensation. But not everyone believes students will actually be better off.

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By participating in faculty or university councils, students get to influence decisions on things like budgets and educational policies. But, in some institutions, their compensation is much lower than in others. The issue has been debated for years.

Political parties GroenLinks and PvdA recently put forward a motion directed at “drawing up national guidelines for the remuneration of members of participation councils, in consultation with student associations and the institutions' umbrella organisations”. Last week, a majority of MPs backed the proposal.

The Dutch National Students' Association (ISO) is “extremely pleased” with the decision and believes it is a step in the right direction. “We’re glad that this is about guidelines because it’s important that this discussion is also conducted in each institution”, ISO board member Gijsbert van Elven declares. He believes this can only bolster the relationship between board members and council members.

A shot in the dark
But Rien Wijnhoven, chair of the National Platform of University Participation Bodies (Lovum), is sceptical. “This motion is just a shot in the dark. It’s nice, but in my opinion, we can’t do very much with it.” He thinks it lacks clear framework conditions for the institutions. “Some make good agreements based on guidelines, and others don’t.”

He’s also concerned about the level of compensation given in the guidelines. “How will it be calculated? I’m a little apprehensive that, in the future, compensation levels will not only be adjusted upward but also downward".

Tuition fees
In another motion, the two parties asked about the tuition fees paid by students who are full-time members of co-determination councils. Why are they exempt from paying tuition fees in some institutions but not in others? The Dutch Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, is going to find out why, as this request also received sufficient support from the Parliament.

ISO is hoping that the motions will help boost students' interest in joining this type of council, as their motivation to do so has been waning for years. “But my enthusiasm stands or falls depending on the way it’s implemented”, Van Elven warned.

According to LOVUM chair Wijnhoven, the question is whether all students will benefit from the second motion. “In my own surroundings, I see council members sometimes taking exams while they are serving in the council. I’m not sure how they would be able to arrange that from a legal perspective if they don’t have to pay tuition fees anymore”, he says.

Last month, during a short debate, Minister Dijkgraaf indicated that he was up to the challenge posed by the two motions.

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