“We don’t want a minister who destroys academic education,” said Rens Bod to the demonstrators. “We want a minister who stands up for university education. We don’t want a minister who lets the workload get out of control completely, but a minister who combats the workload.”

And D66-minister Ingrid van Engelshoven is not doing that, he believes. “That’s why we are renouncing our trust in this minister today and calling on her to resign.”

Red squares and protest berets

In front of Bod stood very enthusiastic activists, some of whom had come in gowns. There were around 750 people, the police estimated. They applauded loudly and shouted ‘Boo!’ at exactly the right time. Many wore the red squares, which were distributed before, on their clothes. There were also berets available for the campaigners. The scientists wore protest signs with slogans such as ‘The next step is to strike’ and ‘WO ≠ left-wing hobby’.

After Rens Bod, it was Utrecht professor Ingrid Robeyns’ turn. She warned that the political struggle was by no means over. Social history shows that you can only change something through cooperation, she underlined. “We will continue.”

Minister Van Engelshoven had just given a speech at the official opening of the academic year of Leiden University, some fifty meters away. She didn’t seem to have a plan for resignation. She did, however, show understanding for all the anger and hinted that the cabinet might want to make a gesture on Prinsjesdag. That message was received with great scepticism by the activists.


Earlier that day, the host of Van Engelshoven, the Leiden rector Carel Stolker, had already denounced the minister in NRC Handelsblad and het Financieele Dagblad. Stolker called her policy ‘disastrous’ and he couldn’t remember a time when the relationship between politics and universities was as bad as it is now.

WOinActie sees such comments as statements of support for the call for resignation. “Universities and research institutes say it implicitly, but WOinActie says it explicitly.”

Image credit: Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau