On Tuesday, the Lower House looked into more than seventy amendments to a new act designed to improve management of education institutions. It should be pointed out that this new act, the Enhance Governance Powers (Tertiary Education) Act, has not yet been passed. It will not be voted on until next week, since Jet Bussemaker, the Minister of Education, is wary of dodgy legislation being passed now that the House has made so many revisions to her bill. We will outline the main changes below.
1. More power to programme committees
The original bill stipulated that programme committees would be granted the right to issue recommendations on the tuition and examination regulations, but the Lower House voted to grant them a greater say. From now on, certain aspects of the regulations, e.g. specialisations within studies and the way in which students are selected for honours programmes, will require the programme committees’ consent.
Pursuant to the amended bill, programme committees will also get to decide on what students must have learned and mastered by the time they graduate. Minister Bussemaker opposed this idea since it would grant students and lecturers an overly large say in the value of their diplomas. Therefore, she requested last week that PvdA and VVD revise their proposed amendment, but they refused to do so.
2. Student and lecturer to be added to appointments selection committees
Thanks to an amendment proposed by CDA and ChristenUnie, appointments selection committees charged with hiring new managers will from now on include one student and one lecturer. At the end of each recruitment procedure, the selection committee will propose a candidate to the supervisory board, which will then officially appoint the candidate to his or her position.
PvdA and D66 were in favour of selection committees consisting for at least 50 percent of students and lecturers, but this proposal was voted down.
3. Members of advisory panels to be provided with complete information
The new act will stipulate that managers must furnish their advisory panels with any information they may require to fulfil their duties, even if the advisory panels have not explicitly requested such information. Of course, managers were always supposed to disclose full information, but this requirement has now been put in writing.
The new act also stipulates that advisory panels must be granted sufficient ‘official, financial and legal support’. In addition, funds must be earmarked for training students and lecturers appointed to a panel.
4. No tuition fees for students on boards
Students who are full-time members of an advisory panel or who spend most of their time running a student society will no longer be required to pay tuition fees. They will not be allowed to attend lectures or sit exams, but they will continue to receive their student grants.
Previously, students on the boards of student societies were required to pay tuition fees, even though they often had no time to attend lectures and seminars. However, paying tuition fees was the only way for them to continue to receive a student loan or a fully paid public transport smart card.
5. Exam marks will not expire quite so easily
Research universities and universities of applied sciences will no longer be allowed to let students’ marks expire unless the students’ knowledge is ‘demonstrably’ out of date. It was found that many departments were abusing their legal right to cause exam marks to expire, which was used to pressure slow students into completing their degrees.
From now on, universities will not be allowed to cause marks to expire quite so easily, even in cases where students’ knowledge is demonstrably out of date. Departments will be required to take into account the students’ personal circumstances.
6. Supervisors will not be required to report problems at once
The Lower House added certain items to Minister Bussemaker’s original bill, but also dropped one item. The Minister sought to require university supervisors to notify the Education Inspectorate at once if they suspected serious problems. However, the Lower House shot down this proposal. Many parties feared that such a duty to notify the Inspectorate would result in supervisors passing the buck to the Inspectorate. The Council of State felt the same way.