On Monday 1 February, twenty students moved to occupy lecture hall CB-037 on the campus Woudestein, starting a four-day protest. But what was it all about?

The students launched their protest against plans by Dutch Education Minister Ronald Plasterk to push through a series of budget cuts. It is feared that the entire bursary system for Dutch students will disappear, which would make access to higher education more difficult. The protesters demanded that the EUR denounces these plans and they wanted a guarantee from the university that tuition fees for a second study will not rise.

Nationwide protests

Elsewhere in Holland, in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Nijmegen and Wageningen, students launched similar protests. Here at the EUR the Executive Board passed a letter to the students stating that the board is to await a formal plan by the minister before taking a position. Furthermore the university stated they will not move to disciplinary action against the students, provided they stayed within the rules.


One student however did not agree with the demonstrations at all; he wanted to follow his lecture and could not control his anger: He bit one of the demonstrators in the hand and destroyed two megaphones. At the same time the demonstrating students had a few high-level sympathisers too. On Tuesday alderman of the city of Rotterdam Dominique Schrijer arrived at the university to show his support for the students. “It is my belief that money may never stand in the way of the choice of studies”, he said. And interestingly, new member of the Executive Board Bart Straatman said he sympathises with the students as well.

Long lasting

A second lecture hall, LB-107, was also occupied on Monday, and students spent two nights in both lecture halls until LB-107 was given up on Wednesday afternoon. CB-037 stayed occupied until Thursday afternoon, followed by a demonstration on the campus and a visit by the education minister himself who spoke to the protesters. The EUR protest was one of the longer lasting efforts. Only in Utrecht students demonstrated until Thursday as well. In the other cities the protests petered out much earlier.

Mixed reactions

There are mixed reactions amongst students who just want to follow their courses: Philosophy student Nikki IJzerman agrees with the demands of the protesters, but wonders whether the actions will have an effect. Fellow student Thijs Krüger agrees and states that “the social commitment among students is very low. Considering this, I think it is a good thing that the ‘SOS’ committee tries to create some awareness.” But others are not as sympathetic. “I don’t like the occupation of the lecture halls at all”, says IBA student Peter de Groot. “I have missed eight lectures now during the past three days and I soon have to write exams. I agree with their point but I don’t believe the occupation of universities is the way to achieve anything.” Law student Thijs Claassen thinks the protests are pointless: “The debate is still going and the definite proposal hasn’t even made it to the minister yet, so in essence nothing has yet happened. To then occupy a university seems a bit of a disproportionate reaction.”