Student Cabinet presents coalition agreement
MAASTRICHT/THE NETHERLANDS “An educational system in which students can move freely through Europe. A semester in the Netherlands, one in France, one in Portugal, and so on.” This is what the brand-new Minister of Foreign Affairs in the newly launched student cabinet Heleen van der Velden, third-year student European Studies, will dedicate herself to.
The student cabinet is an initiative of university association VSNU. “The Dutch universities have a lot of knowledge that is worth sharing. We want to challenge politicians to look a little further: let others also think along”, says VSNU spokesman Piet van Ierland.
Each university supplies a minister. The Prime Minister comes from the University of Twente and Maastricht supplies the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Last Monday, the student cabinet presented a coalition agreement full of long-term plans, based on scientific research.
Every student was free to write whatever he or she wanted. The only condition was that the ‘ministers’ had to look beyond their own opinion and refer to scientific literature. Van Ierland: "No populism, no opinions, but a solid story based on knowledge." The latter is very important, Van der Velden emphasizes. "We are all students, but we are the voice of science."
Yesterday, the student minister-president handed over their coalition agreement to outgoing education minister Van Engelshoven. But on behalf of who is he actually speaking? “Hopefully on behalf of science and the universities,” says Metz. “We are not the voice of the students! We have no political affiliation. What we do is translate science into policy for the Netherlands in twenty, thirty or fifty years. It doesn't matter whether it is leftwing, rightwing or diagonal. ” In short, a student cabinet that does not speak on behalf of students, but on behalf of science. And that doesn't want to be political, but it still is. A kind of landing photo shows the ministers with red colored electoral circles on their bellies, but no one has elected them.
Vander Velden: “We have also sent it to all political parties. The formation is now in full swing. Hopefully our ideas will be included in the ‘real’ coalition agreement. "
What kind of matters are discussed in this agreement? As student minister of Foreign Affairs, Van der Velden will work on “one European education area in which students are no longer bound to one university. Students will experience multiple languages and cultures and can specialize in subject areas that ‘their own’ university does not offer. In this way, students are better prepared to tackle cross-border problems such as the climate and migration crisis. ” It also has economic benefits, Van der Velden thinks. “It is often expensive to study abroad. There is more balance if all rates are equalized. Furthermore, it is of course good for students throughout Europe to make contacts for future trade relations.”
So far she has put a lot of time in her new position, says Van der Velden. “Last month I had to write a vision and record a video. In the long run I think I will be working on it about a day a week. For example with our weekly Council of Ministers and I hope that we can sit down with political parties to discuss our ideas.”
It is not clear how long her ministerial position will last, says Van der Velden. “I am now in the final year of my bachelor's degree and shouldn't be a student in a couple of years. Then it is difficult to be the voice of science.”
Yuri Meesen / HOP