In a reaction to university reforms a protest movement called “De Nieuwe Universiteit Amsterdam” recently formed in the Dutch capital, occupying two buildings. Now an EUR chapter of the movement has emerged, which held its first meeting on Monday 9 March in the C building.

Under the banner of “De Nieuwe Universiteit” (“New University”) student protests have arisen in all major Dutch cities. The protests are triggered by ongoing reformations of the Dutch higher education. The increasing focus on profitability has sparked anger against university executive boards and the ministry of education. The student occupation of two buildings at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) has marked the recent culmination of these protests.

At the EUR the impending abolishment of the Philosophy Faculty as an independent body and the reorganization of the Social Sciences due to profitability reasons have spawned a local group of protesters: “De Nieuwe Universiteit Rotterdam”. The group had its first meeting on Monday, 19th March. Around 50 students and teaching staff attended the meeting in the C building. Most from the faculties of Philosophy, Social Sciences, and History, Culture and Communication. Members of economic faculties were notably absent.

“These protests are not radical”

“Profitability has to be defined in terms of knowledge for students instead of finances” pronounced historian and author Zihni Özdil via a video message. “These protests are not radical. What is radical is the current neo-liberal assault on education.”

The following open discussion, which was joined by two representatives of “De Nieuwe Universiteit Amsterdam”, stretched over the rest of the evening. After an open round and several separate small scale discussions, several main statements were proclaimed.

Firstly, there would not be enough opportunity for democratic participation of students and staff in the management of the university. The executive board would not be transparent enough, especially in regards to its financial decisions.

Wrong career incentives

Increasing flex-time work, in which staff is subjected to unstable contracts would be problematic. Margreet Luth, who works at the Law faculty, stated her dissatisfaction about wrong career incentives: “The only way to really make career is to publish a lot of research papers. Effectively you have to spend less time on teaching preparations if you want to advance in your job.”

Finally the broader function of university in society was subject to discussion. Consensus could be reached, that instead of just producing the greatest amount of Bachelor degrees in the shortest amount of time, higher education should focus on educating critical citizens.

The next meeting was announced by spokesman Bob Scholte for the 16th of March, at 19.30 hrs in the C building. ET