This year, the debate between the party leaders was hosted at Ahoy for the first time, having taken place at the aula in previous years. The leaders of the six largest parties in the polls convened at the RTM Stage of the venue to take part in a debate on migration, climate change and socio-economic security. A video clip of students on campus setting out their views of the various issues was shown prior to each debate.

International students

For the first issue, which was migration, a student in the video clip expressed his concerns about the number of migrants coming into the Netherlands in relation to housing. Geert Wilders (PVV) likewise highlighted the housing crisis and suggested that ‘Dutch people should once again be prioritised’. Pieter Omtzigt (NSC) emphasised the influx of international students. “40 per cent of places at universities are currently occupied by international students. This year, we will be giving them a basic student grant if they work one day a week. This means that those places as well as the housing, amounting to 120,000 rooms, will not be available.”

Read more

What political parties promise for students and higher education

What plans do political parties have for students and universities? How do they intend to…

Dilan Yeşilgöz (VVD) was equally in support of the number of internationals being reduced: “It’s not that we’re against international students – but the housing market is incredibly crowded right now.”

The moderator and presenter, Pieter Jan Hagens, observed that “that group is undoubtedly represented here tonight as well – students who come from abroad.” There was whooping from the audience. Wilders responded to this jokingly: “What? Who said that? I was about to…”

International talent

Rob Jetten (D66) took a different view of academic migration. He felt that it was ridiculous that some of his fellow parties would want to ban bachelor programmes taught in English and spoke about the benefits of international classrooms. “Students are telling me: ‘I deliberately chose a programme taught in English, to make sure there was some international talent to inspire me.’”

‘Students are telling me: I deliberately chose a programme taught in English, to make sure there was some international talent to inspire me’

Rob Jetten

Omtzigt also weighed in on the issue of internationalisation: “The message announcing this debate on the website is in English rather than in Dutch (incorrect: the debate was announced in Dutch as well as in English, ed.) – we have simply gone too far.” He believes it is vital that university places should be guaranteed for Dutch students through the language of instruction. “If we give 40 per cent of the places at technical universities to international students, and we then say ‘we don’t have enough engineers in this country’, we really have no right to complain.”

A habitable planet

The impact on students was likewise emphasised when discussing the issue of climate change. In the clip beforehand, a student says: “I want a healthy planet for my children and grandchildren.” Another had doubts about the impact of the Netherlands: “I don’t think there’s much point in the Netherlands breaking its back on the issue and paying a lot of money – that’s something that needs to happen worldwide.”

Jetten kicked off the debate, saying: “The students standing here tonight belong to the generation that will have to deal with increasingly more extreme weather, and that’s because the people who went before them did too little to tackle climate change.” Jetten cited his work as Minister for Climate and Energy Policy and indicated he would like to continue in this position. “I promise all of these students: I will not waste a single second in terms of taking more action on climate change, to ensure you, too, can enjoy a clean and habitable planet.”

Read more

How did the political parties vote on higher education?

A lot of political parties talk a good game when it comes to higher education – but how…

A country with a leadership role

The PVV is against more policies to tackle climate change, but advocates climate adaptation measures. “We do not deny that climate change is a problem. However, spending 28 billion on climate change simply to prevent temperatures from rising zero-point-however-many degrees is simply out of all proportion”, said Wilders.

‘If we take the lead on climate policy, we will not only reduce our vulnerability, but also make the Netherlands a country with a leadership role’

Frans Timmermans

Timmermans (GroenLinks-PvdA), by contrast, emphasised the benefits of climate policy. “If we take the lead on this issue, we will not only reduce our vulnerability, but also make the Netherlands a country with a leadership role in the fight against climate change. That means strengthening our economy, strengthening innovation and jobs in a leading, global industry for all of these young people.”

Prospects for the future

On the subject of socio-economic security, the debate turns to inflation and the housing crisis, which impact on students as well. In the video clip preceding the debate, a student shares her concerns about the impact of high prices on her prospects for the future. “I’m getting my degree, I work hard, but sometimes I just don’t have enough money at the end of the month. That means I have to borrow money and build up debt, which also means it will be more difficult to buy a house down the line.”

The parties largely agree on the approach to the housing crisis: more houses need to be built. “It sounds really simple, but we really do need to build more houses. And, of course, we need to reduce the number of people who come to the Netherlands”, said Yeşilgöz. Caroline van der Plas (BBB) took the needs of the countryside into account, adding: “That does not mean nonchalantly declaring: ‘we’ll be taking over these fields and building acres of newbuild homes on them.’” Omtzigt was in favour of all the measures above and suggested a number of others. “Agreements with the housing associations, to ensure that 70 or 80 per cent of homes are affordable rather than just 40 per cent.”

Timmermans summed up the consensus on the issue. “I think it’s encouraging that this is an issue on which politicians are not divided. That gives me hope that we truly will be able to offer more prospects for young people within the next few years.”

EM_stemmen_verkiezingen elections 2023_ City hall Heijplaat Student association Stadium Gallery Paddle Steamer _ENG_IkRotterdam

Reed more

Turn voting into an outing

On election day, there are queues outside churches and you can peek inside the local…