“We would like to emphasise that this letter is a cry for help,” the students wrote in the open letter. Students are tired, distracted and unable to focus on their studies. “We are students aged between the ages of 18 and 25, and we are already burnt out. We have non-stop education that entails an overwhelming amount of self-study, without any social interaction.” They wrote that they have not had ‘a second break’ since September, with the exception of the Christmas holidays. They even mention that they were unable to enjoy the Easter break because they had two deadlines for papers, on Easter and Whit Monday respectively.

“We decided to send an open letter to the faculty to make our complaints known, but also to start an open discussion about the study workload and mental health at the faculty and the university,” says Celina Zimmermann, one of the students who penned the open letter. “Of course, in the first place we are doing this for ourselves, but we hope to help other students as well. Hopefully this letter will have a lasting impact for the future.”

Study workload and mental health

Students are suffering from an excessive study workload, they stated. “Last weekend, we had five deadlines within 48 hours, and we also had an exam two days before that.”

In the open letter, students indicate that they are struggling with their mental health. One student says that they are suffering from suicidal thoughts, another is feeling ‘hopeless and lost’. “Over the past year we have filled in heaps of surveys on mental health. Even though we did indicate in each survey that things are getting worse, barely any changes have been made to relieve the pressure.”

Students are calling for a ‘systemic change’. They demand a revision of the timetables and that the faculty involve student advisors in the decision-making process. They also call on the faculty to pay better attention to the mental health of students. “The help that the faculty offers is not enough,” the students wrote.


According to dean of education Bram Steijn, these complaints have been resolved ‘to the satisfaction of the students’. “There was admittedly an unfortunate overlap of deadlines. Some deadlines were cancelled or postponed and a resit was rescheduled in consultation with the students.” Teachers have also been urged to make the study break in May a proper break. “And that really is going to happen,” Steijn promises solemnly. He acknowledges that students experience the programme as too ‘full’. The faculty board is currently revising the timetable in which they will ‘build in more breaks’.

Satisfied for now

Celina is certainly very positive about the way in which the faculty dealt with their complaints. “We received an official response from the faculty within two days, complete with solutions. They did handle it better than we expected,” says the German student. “We are definitely satisfied with the short-term solution, such as changes to the timetable and the week-long study break. But we still need to see how they are going to sort out the long-term problems.”

Steijn has a meeting planned with the student representatives about this next week.

Do you think you, too, could do with some help? If so, please contact Are You OK Out There or a therapist specialising in studentsgo for a walk with other students, or seek help through a lecturer or tutor. If you are an EUR employee in need of help, please contact the OpenUp platform.