Photographer:Fotograaf: Kim Pieper
New University Maastricht; VAWO and FNV representatives at Maastricht University; WOinActie Maastricht.
On March 15th the entire Dutch education sector will go on strike. The chances are that you’ve heard something about this, since the initiative is supported by the Executive Board of our university. However, we can imagine that many of you are thinking: a strike? Is that really relevant to Maastricht University? Is that something I should support and get involved with?
We argue that the answer is yes. The strike has not just appeared out of thin air. The numbers of students enrolled in Dutch universities has been expanding for decades, while in the same period state funding per student has decreased significantly. For years the demand from central government has been to do ever more, with ever fewer resources.
This is not sustainable. Academics will recognize the symptoms: heavier teaching loads, vanishing research time; late nights, early mornings, long weekends where the work is done that can never fit into a forty-hour work week. An exhausting, never-ending race to acquire grants which can only ever be acquired by a tiny percentage of the academic community. A culture of mistrust, directly propagated by central government, feeding a towers-of-paperwork bureaucratization process that has become a goal in itself. Support staff will also be painfully aware of what happens when you attempt to process more students, in less time, with fewer resources, against a backdrop of increasing bureaucratic demands.
Students: although most of you will only be at Maastricht for three or four years, you must understand that the fact that the Dutch higher education system functions as it currently does is the result of endless unpaid hours by academics who care passionately about the quality of your education. If the quality of your education is not always up to scratch, then this is often the result of academic staff not having the time to deliver it. The pressure that you are under - to pass your exams, to pass your BSA, to build your CV, to limit your student debt – has the same structural roots as the problems faced by staff. You are expected to do more, and to be more, with ever fewer resources and with scant regard for the resulting personal and social externalities.
It is always possible to find reasons and excuses to not do anything on March 15th, or on any other day. We can lose ourselves in the differences between Maastricht University and our friends and colleagues elsewhere in the country, or in the differences between staff and students, or in the differences between the six Maastricht faculties, service centres, and other UM offices. But ultimately these differences are minor. We need to find what unites us, to listen to each other’s stories and not to seek the illusory safety of cynicism and perceived powerlessness. Above all, we need to act.
This is why we are going on strike, and this is why we think you should too. Wear a red square, find out what is going on both locally and nationally (see the links below), and let’s make March 15th the beginning of a transformation.
New University Maastricht;
VAWO and FNV representatives at Maastricht University;