The students of the Central Student Council (CSR) believe the University of Amsterdam (UvA) should withdraw from the Association of universities in the Netherlands. The council has no confidence in VVD Member of Parliament Pieter Duisenberg, the new VSNU President.

For almost five years, Duisenberg was responsible for the VVD’s Higher Education and Science portfolio. According to the students, during his tenure he repeatedly made negative statements about the course of events at the University of Amsterdam. He also made policy proposals that were damaging to the UvA.

More funding for universities of technology

One example the students gave was Duisenberg’s call to use the revenues from the student loan system to make more funding available for universities of technology. The Central Student Council called it ‘unacceptable’ to use the funds in a manner that did not benefit all students.

Furthermore, it is alleged he also called for a crackdown on so-called ‘fun’ study programmes. According to the council this placed pressure on students enrolled in various study programmes at the UvA. On the council’s website, the students wrote: “Mr Duisenberg’s narrow view of education, based solely on economic gain, threatens the existence of comprehensive universities such as the UvA.”

Maagdenhuis occupation

The council members are still angry about Duisenberg’s statements that damages incurred during the Maagdenhuis occupation should be recovered from the activists who occupied the building. His proposal went against decisions made by the UvA, making it ‘a serious breach of the autonomy of both universities in general and the manner in which university governors carry out their duties’.

This is why the student council members want Duisenberg to stand down as President. If he refuses, the UvA should withdraw from the umbrella organisation. “These statements do not instil confidence that Duisenberg – and by extension the VSNU – will stand up for the UvA’s interests in the national political arena”, says CSR chair Alex Tess Rutten.

Duisenberg not standing down just yet

In its response the VSNU stated that there is no question of standing down. “Pieter Duisenberg is looking forward to meeting with the students and hopes such a meeting can be scheduled quickly”, said a spokesman. He had no comments on what the ramifications would be if the UvA left the association. “I don’t think that is at issue here so I cannot answer that question.” The UvA stated it has full confidence in Duisenberg and indicated they had ‘taken note’ of the council’s position in the matter.

EUR Executive Board President Kristel Baele was a member of the selection committee that recommended Pieter Duisenberg as a candidate. Speaking on her behalf, her spokesperson stated that there would be no further response from Baele regarding the allegations against Duisenberg. “Pieter Duisenberg is a passionate and highly engaged leader with a love for academia. He has a proven track record in both the corporate sector and in politics, where he has always given the interests of higher education his professional and personal attention,” said Baele earlier, when Duisenberg’s appointment was made public.