I represent the ESHCC in the University Council for nearly two years now. This year, my colleagues in the Council elected me to chair the staff section. Although staff and students formally have their own separate sections in the Council, we work together intensively. For example, we can ask questions and investigate issues which are just as relevant to researchers, lecturers and support staff as they are to students at our university.
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From now on, EM will be publishing a report from the University Council every three weeks. Jiska Engelbert (assistant professor ESHCC), chair of the staff section, and Wies Bontje (student of Medicine), chair of the student section, will take turns in writing an article. This article will be written under their own responsibility, aimed at providing more insight into what the University Council, as the highest participation body within the university, actually does and achieves.
For example, why does EUR have so few female professors and deans, particularly in comparison to other Dutch universities? Is it really logical that the university gives more money to faculties that deliver more graduates? Is investing in internationalisation the most appropriate way to spend the money that has been released through Dutch students now taking out loans to finance their studies. Is it desirable that so much of the teaching at our university is provided by young people without a permanent contract? Why is the quality of research and education at our university still determined on the basis of indicators that have proven to be problematic?
‘The results of the recent Staff Satisfaction Survey are presented as proof of profit and progress, while the University Council regards these results as more confirmation that excessive workload is a huge problem.’
As a University Council, we respect that a number of these answers will be determined by legal frameworks, expectations from the Ministry or international academic rules. However, we come into action when it appears, often from our own critical research, that central and faculty managers are making choices which conflict with the interests of support staff, researchers, lecturers and students at EUR. For example, we find that the Work and Security Act is too often misused in order to enter into even more temporary contracts. In our view, the Act should be used to attract and retain young, enthusiastic academics who are crucial in education at EUR.
Similarly, the results of the recent Staff Satisfaction Survey (MTO) are presented as proof of profit and progress, while the University Council regards these results as more confirmation that excessive workload is a huge problem throughout EUR. Moreover, not long ago, faculty managers evaluated EUR’s financial model as a preferred model. However, the University Council has big concerns regarding this model, because it actively sustains the inequality between the faculties and it encourages a view of considering students as quantities.
This spring, a special University Council work group is presenting its proposals to reduce the workload and temporary contracts at EUR. In this, we are working closely with the various trade unions and the EUROPA. And the Council’s Finance Committee will continue to stimulate the critical debate about a fair financial distribution model.
As a Council, we want managers to make different, better choices in a number of areas. We are proud of what we as a Council have achieved so far. Namely: more input from students about the use of funds released following the introduction of the student loan system. Better central information provision for faculty councils and programme committees in the framework of the new Higher Education Act. More support for a culture in which diversity is not a financial cost item but a moral duty, particularly in a university like ours, in a city like ours.
But we haven’t finished yet. The ‘Bussemaker funds’, to promote more female professors, have to be distributed, new governors will be appointed, programme committees will become participative bodies. All dossiers in which the right choices must be made and in which the Council will certainly make its voice heard.
Follow these developments here in EM, where Wies Bontje, chair of the student section, and I will take turns to provide updates.
Dr. Jiska Engelbert
Chair Staff Section University Council