Univ. Amsterdam protesters "genuinely concerned"

According to Minister Jet Bussemaker (Education) the students occupying the Maagdenhuis have "a point". She is advising the University Directors, who will have a discussion with students across the country today, to "listen very carefully", Trouw reports.

Today there will be talks on all colleges and universities across the country. Minister Bussemaker spoke with the students from the University of Amsterdam. "Not unreasonable people. Not unwordly, exaggerated or naive. Far from it. They are genuinely concerned." According to the minister, the University Directors should ask their students if improvements are possible. "The university should be a community in which there are discussions. I'd much rather see that than the reclining consuming student."

One of the students' concerns, and one of the reasons fr the occupation of the UvA's Bungehuis, is the disappearance of a number of smaller courses. Last year the University of Amsterdam announced that a substantial number of smaller languages will disappear as independent courses. The minister wrote a letter to the Kamer about this, stating that from now on a university or college can only delete a course after a transparent and thorough process "in which other institutions, but also students and teachers are involved". The minister writes that "this approach should be systematically followed from now on and also applies to the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam". It is still unclear whether this means that all decisions made by that faculty will no have to be remade.

The minister also recognizes other concerns, concerns she had come across during her tour of higher education during last fall. She is familiar with the complaints that students feel that they are being treated as a "product" and that they have too little input, not only at the UvA, but all over the country. She says that there is "a sense of unease" and that has to change. "A university is not a business. Students should have the opportunity to develop into critical and creative thinkers."

Bussemaker states they have already started working on some of the biggest concerns. Universities now only settle 20 percent of their budget on the number of diplomas, before 2011 it was half of their budgets. She is working on measures that will mean that lecturers will be judged not only on their research and number of publications, but also on their lecturing skills. They are also working on student participation - from next year students will be able to participate in the outline of their institution's budget. "Formally they get that right only in September", Bussemaker said. "But I advise the institution directors to start with it now."