The year 2017 started off well in respect of participation in decision-making. The new Enhanced Governance Powers Act, which gave new rights to participation bodies, was intended to give students and employees more say and to strengthen their position.

This Act came into force due to a number of incidents; one being the bankruptcy of the comprehensive school Amarantis, which was brought about by mismanagement. In the structure existing at the time, members of the board were able to take decisions which had enormous consequences for students and personnel, without their participation bodies contributing any input. Protests, such as the occupation of the Maagdenhuis in Amsterdam, brought matters to a head.

From now on, EM will publish a message from the University Council every three weeks. Jiska Engelbert (assistant professor ESHCC), chair of the staff section, and Wies Bontje (a medical student), chair of the student section, will take it in turn to provide the articles for EM. They will be personally responsible for what is written in these articles; the aim of which is to provide more insight into what the University Council – as the highest participation body within the university – actually does and what it achieves.

The new Act is intended to facilitate better interplay between the Executive Board, the participation bodies and the Supervisory Board, whereby the participation bodies will have more rights in the decision-making process. This means that the University Council will play a greater role in the selection of new Board members, for example. The University Council will have the right of prior consultation when a new Board member’s profile is being compiled; and two council members will sit on the appointment’s committee. The faculty councils will have the right of approval with respect to the main elements of the budget.

Important for students

The Act also has several consequences for Programme Committees. Previously a Programme Committee ‘only’ had the right to be consulted. Officially, a programme director had to respond to a request for advice, but could in fact simply ignore the request. Now the Programme Committees have been given the right of approval in respect of the Teaching and Examination Regulations (OER); about, for example, the content of the specialisation and the study load of the study programme. This is, naturally, very important for students, given the OER lays down all the procedures, rights and obligations associated with their education and exams.

In short, the participation bodies are being offered new opportunities to promote the interests of both students and employees. It all sounds good but, in practice, implementing the Act is somewhat complicated. The Act itself raises new issues. What will happen when the Programme Committees and the Faculty Council disagree about the decision being taken? What are the main elements of the budget? Moreover, not everyone is fully aware of the substance of the new Act.


The right of participation of the students and personnel of educational institutions is statutorily laid down in the Higher Education and Research Act (WHW)

  • At a central level, the University Council participates in the decision-making process.
  • At faculty level, the Faculty Councils and the Programme Committees are responsible for participation in decision-making. The Faculty Councils consult the Deans, particularly in respect of the strategy, policy and regulatory measures. The Programme Committees concentrate on the study programme’s education.
  • The (majority of) participation bodies consist of both personnel and students.
  • Members of the University Council and the Faculty Councils are chosen democratically on the basis of elections.

To make optimum use of the new rights, it is essential that both the participation bodies and the Board are well-informed and that there is no lack of clarity about any part of the Act. In this context, the University Council can and would be happy to play an important role. For example, by organising a joint consultation meeting with all the participation councils, or arranging training courses, as well as by ensuring all the Boards provide information to other bodies.


The new Act will definitely benefit the level of participation in decision-making and, consequently, will be beneficial for the university’s students and employees. However, before we can reap the rewards, there is quite a lot of work to be done. In other words, we will not be bored.