Erasmus University decided to improve participatory decision- making at all levels after the national action day on which students protested for democratization of universities in the Netherlands. A project group was formed to take stock of the problems encountered by the faculty advisory boards and the programme committees.

“For a long time now the University Council has been saying that the quality of the participatory decision-making needs to improve,” explained René Karens, chair of the University Council. “At central level, there is little cause for complaint. The University Council is offered considerable opportunity to participate and exert influence and has both legal and administrative support.”

However, at decentralised level a great deal of catching up needs to be done. Regularly, the University Council notices that insufficient attention is being paid to the faculty advisory boards and programme committees. “That’s partly due to a lack of will on the part of deans and programme directors, but sometimes it is also due to a lack of knowledge about participatory decision-making.”

Issues at faculty level

Pauline van der Meer Mohr, President of the Executive Board, confirmed it was necessary to ‘improve the quality and culture of co-determination’. In response to the events in Amsterdam, she compiled lists of recommendations issued by the University Council over the last few years to see whether the Rotterdam Executive Board was taking enough account of co-determination.

“There were very few recommendations which we disregarded, so I believe that everything is working well centrally. However, I am picking up signs from the faculties that there are some issues at that level.” Asked to provide an example, she said it varied from case to case which made her suspect there were probably several problem areas.

Project group

At the insistence of Karens, a project group is currently being set up to analyse these problems. “Currently, the Advisory Boards of the Social Sciences and Philosophy Faculties are complaining to us about the lack of attention paid by the deans to their recommendations and about the lack of transparency surrounding reorganisations. But past experience of the reorganisations in, for example, RSM or the History Faculty has already demonstrated that participatory decision-making is not always taken very seriously.”

The dialogue must improve

According to Van der Meer Mohr, the objective of the project group is to stimulate the quality of participatory decision-making: “We must ensure that the dialogue is of a high quality on all levels. Students and employees must be involved when they are still able to influence decisions, not only after everything has been decided.”

The project group consists of three deans, personnel and students from the University Council, as well as Van der Meer Mohr and Karens themselves. “We also intend to involve members of the faculty advisory boards,” added Karens. “It would be nonsensical to try to solve faculty-related or programme-specific problems at university level.”

Pleased about the action day

Karens is pleased about the emergence of groups such as the New University of Rotterdam and Philosophy Ground. “We can definitely make good use of this kind of input and we certainly intend to. But I’m also intrigued to know the thoughts of the silent students and employees.” The intention is for the project group to hold its first meeting in the very near future. TF