Opinion: What happens in The Hague, should not stay in The Hague
UM students, especially international education migrants, should show more interest in Dutch higher education politics, as it is not only a matter of integration, but also directly affects all of us. So don’t stay in your ivory tower, argues Tobias Bünder, University Council Student Representative, NovUM Faction.
During this week, students all over the Netherlands stood up once more to show that a great deal of us highly doubts that the current national policy of cutting on higher education budgets will turn out to be beneficial for this country. In the framework of a national action week, organized by the national student unions LSVB (Landelijke Studenten Vakbond) and ISO (Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg), different awareness and protest events run in seven Dutch university towns: Among other items, students in Zwolle and Wageningen have erected ‘Wailing Walls’; Universities Delft, Nijmegen and Amsterdam offer courses in Scandinavian languages, as studying becomes at least financially more attractive in that region; and students went on a protest ‘fiets’-trip from Amsterdam to The Hague…
Unfortunately, in our little ivory tower, Maastricht University, no action, no event has been organized. Surely, Maastricht is not the only place where this week will pass by without any major discussion on the political changes in Dutch higher education system, but it symbolizes a general unwillingness and unawareness of Maastricht students to deal with these matters. As much as they have been debated in Dutch news, I even believe that a lot of students do not even know about the (financial) consequences that are related to the new policies.
Several changes have been decided upon, or will most probably be agreed upon soon: For example, the ‘langstudeerboete’ will fine all students with up to € 3000 for taking longer than four years for the Bachelor or two years for the Master – no matter if you are already studying or will just start next year. Moreover, ‘studiefinanciering’, the basic study grant, will be canceled for the Master. Additionally, you cannot get conditionally accepted to a Master-program anymore before finishing your Bachelor degree, while at the same time being forced to immediately graduate and leave the university once you passed all requirements. Finally, the freedom of changing or expanding focus after finishing a first study comes with a high price from now on. Students are obliged to pay the ‘full’ price for a second Bachelor or Master, which for UM amounts to € 8,500 and € 12,000 respectively.
One can understand that not a lot of international students show great interest for Dutch politics, especially when studying non-political subjects in a university focused on Europe in a time of generally decreasing enthusiasm for political issues. However, when facing such tremendous changes in everyone’s direct environment, the university, I would assume that this should be the time to at least get informed and maybe even find ways to enter the discussion. If language should be an issue, I can recommend following http://www.dutchnews.nl/ for example. Finding out about local student representation or supporting European student unions could be an easy start to become active.
However, this is an issue that is also not solely limited to the international student community. Being active in student representation myself I can openly say that higher education politics is also not a topic that is immensely attractive for Dutch students – at least not in Maastricht.
All in all, studying at Maastricht University might feel like being in a non-nationalistic European bubble from time to time. Nevertheless, I would like to remind us all that this bubble remains connected to Dutch politics, which in the field of higher education affect us all directly – now more than ever. Being informed is the least, I think, everyone should take care of.
If you spontaneously feel like doing more – join the UM delegation to the final protests in Amsterdam, Friday, March 23! UM provides a bus for 50 people, find more information on the Facebook page of the University Council or on http://lsvb.nl/hoe-kan-ik-helpen/meehelpen-met-acties/.
If you want to know more about changes in national higher education politics and how it can affect you, contact your student representatives or check: http://www.iso.nl/VERANDERINGENINHO20122013.aspx