GroenLinks and PvdA recently put forward a motion directed at “drawing up national guidelines for the remuneration of members of participation councils, in consultation with student associations and the umbrella organisations for institutions”. This week, a majority of MPs backed the proposal.
The Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO) is “extremely pleased” with the decision and believes it is a step in the right direction. “We’re happy that this is about guidelines because it’s important that this discussion is also conducted in the individual institutions”, ISO board member Gijsbert van Elven says. He believes this can only bolster the relationship between board members and participation council members.
A shot in the dark
But Rien Wijnhoven, chair of the National Platform of University Participation Bodies (LOVUM), is sceptical. “This motion is just a shot in the dark. It’s nice, but in my opinion we can’t do very much with it.” There’s a lack of clear framework conditions for the institutions, Wijnhoven believes. “Some make good agreements based on guidelines, and others don’t.”
He’s also concerned about the level of compensation given in the guidelines. “How will it be calculated? I’m a little apprehensive that in future we will be seeing compensation levels aren’t just adjusted upward but are also adjusted downward”, Wijnhoven says.
In another motion the two parties asked about tuition fees paid by students who are full-time participation council members. Why do they get exemptions from paying tuition fees at one institution but not at the other? Minister Dijkgraaf is going to find out, because that request also received sufficient support of Parliament yesterday.
The ISO is hoping that the motions will help boost student participation, because interest has been waning for years. “But my enthusiasm stands or falls on the way it’s implemented”, Van Elven warned.
According to LOVUM chair Wijnhoven, it remains very much the question whether all students will benefit from the second motion. “In my own surroundings I see students on participation councils sometimes making up an exam during their year in student government. I’m not sure how they would be able to arrange that from a legal perspective if they don’t have to pay tuition fees anymore”, he says.
Last month during a short debate Minister Dijkgraaf indicated that he was up to the challenge posed by the two motions.