A lot needs to be done about social safety in higher education. Research from trade unions FNV and VAWO last year showed that four in ten university employees suffer from bullying, gossiping, exclusion or a misuse of power.
But where can they go for support? There are many problems with the existing confidential counsellor system. These counsellors are after all often themselves a part of the university or university of applied sciences hierarchy. And what if your complaint is about the person who is supposed to be assessing you? As victim, you are then left high and dry, stated opposition party PvdA. Edith Weijnen, the ombuds at the EUR clearly saw that there was a demand for an independent listening ear.
New ombuds already handling dozens of cases
EUR’s new ombudsperson Edith Weijnen only started a few months ago, but she already has a
An experiment with independent ombudspersons started at four universities last year. In addition to the EUR, the University of Twente, Delft University of Technology and Maastricht University are also taking part. The Vrije Universiteit and the University of Amsterdam already had an ombudsperson in house.PvdA and D66 would prefer to pass legislation now regarding this position. They also think that such ombudspersons should not only work for staff, but also for students.
But for Minister Van Engelshoven, such a move would be premature. She would first like to await the results of the ombudsperson pilot. This will be evaluated before the summer. She can then decide whether the position of ombudsperson should be enshrined in law and whether students should also be able to use their services.
It was suggested in the House of Representatives that institutions would not have sufficient budget to appoint these ombudspersons. Van Engelshoven quickly clarified that no extra funding would be made available from the ministry.
“There are some considerable concerns about funding in higher education, but this one is not yet on the list,” she stated. She suggested to members of the House that the ombudsperson role could simply be financed from the lump sum. “Safeguarding the social safety of students and staff is a core task of educational institutions and they receive funding for this.”
The VVD used the opportunity to argue the case for digital security in response to the recent cyber attack at Maastricht University. But here, too, the Minister stated that she would make her response after the conclusion of the Education Inspectorate report.