Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts
Eight “demands” by New University Maastricht
MAASTRICHT. Investigations into the exact workload of staff members, elections for all top positions, don’t let the tuition fees rise. The New University Maastricht (NUM) set out eight “demands” in an open letter to the Executive Board this week, but also says that they want to work together with the Executive Board and the University Council. The Executive Board takes the concerns seriously and will answer as quickly as possible.
The NUM is an “open platform for discussion and action with the aim to improve the quality and conditions of education and research, and improve democracy within universities”. It is not clear how many Maastricht students and lecturers have joined its ranks. The Facebook page has about 570 likes. “We represent all those who share the same concerns. I estimate that there are a lot more, even though everything is organised by a relatively small group,” says René Gabriëls, staff member at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and member of NUM.
The letter writers observed that in Maastricht there is a “widely shared discontent among students and staff with regard to the quality of education and research”. Therefore, they also support the New University movements elsewhere in the country that are fighting for more democracy, more financial transparency, fewer temporary contracts, less work pressure, more sustainability and “a move away from the excessive focus on output”. Points that are also endorsed by various other organisations and individuals, as appeared during the debates over the past few weeks in Maastricht and elsewhere in the Netherlands.
At the same time, NUM realises that a number of its demands - such as funding based on the number of students and PhDs - cannot be solved at a local level, but on a national and international level. That is why they have asked the Executive Board to work together with its counterparts throughout the country, joined together in the VSNU, to put pressure on education minister Bussemaker.
The NUM speaks of “demands” in the open letter, but that appears to be a powerful term. There is no mention of any sanctions if the demands are not met. The letter writers do say that they would like to collaborate with both the Executive Board and the University Council, preferably in the form of working groups that focus on the various issues.
The Executive Board states in a written reaction that it takes the concerns seriously and that it will discuss the various topics with the democratically elected participatory bodies (University Council, Lokaal Overleg) and the Management Team and the Supervisory Board as soon as possible. The results of this will be made public throughout the university, says Executive President Martin Paul. As far as the large number of temporary contracts is concerned (now 60 per cent including PhDs, which, according to the collective labour agreement should be reduced to 22 per cent for professors, lecturers and senior lecturers): the UM had already taken action on this matter before the Maagdenhuis occupation. A working group is currently considering the matter. And as a result of the two recent debates, the Executive Board is now looking at the norm hours (how many hours a lecturer is given to check a thesis or teach a block) within the various faculties. Paul: “We need clarity on this before we can have a proper discussion.”
Click here for the letter of the NUM and click here for the letter of the executive