UvA Affected by Government’s Budget Cuts

In the second semester of the 2017-2018 academic year, students and faculty members protested the budget cuts for the faculties of Social and Behavioural Sciences and Humanities. After the government announced cutbacks of 183 million euros on higher education, the University of Amsterdam and especially the Humanities and Social Behavioural Sciences faculties were the first ones to suffer the consequences. During the busy protest period, the Amsterdammer reported on an email sent to the both of these faculties that stated a decrease in tutorial hours and in number of lectures for the next academic year was guaranteed.


The Consequences

Primarily, by reducing the scope of programmes and courses due to limited resources, the cuts have endangered the quality of education and jeopardised the university’s ability to meet students’ needs. For that reason, during the so-called “Week of Action” from May 22 to 25 and the “March of Education,” held on June 8, protesters asked for democracy in funding decisions, a fair funding structure, diversity, and for the budget to not affect the quality of education. According to Nuria Zantman, chair of the Student Council of the Faculty of Humanities, the protests in May and June did not affect the government’s education funding priorities, with the planned UvA cuts going ahead despite student uproar. Now, these cutbacks have started to become noticeable: The Corporate Communication course and different tracks of the Media Studies programme have classes for only two hours per week. Furthermore, the UvA Factbook shows that in the last academic year (2017-2018), the Faculty of Humanities received more international students, many of whom pay significantly higher fees. Zantman adds that “the funding per student decreased by 25% in 2016 and it has not increased since then. Less money per student means less teachers per student; this results in more massive and less personal education. This directly affects the quality of education. The changes are made so the UvA can function with less staff. These changes include for example the sharing of courses within a study with other studies, the merging of small masters and the growing emphasis on minors instead of program-specific electives.”

UvA president Geert ten Dam has stated differently in an interview published by Folia earlier this year. According to her, the budget cuts will not affect the quality of education: You sometimes have to take radical measures, and certainly when in transition, but you must always put education first.”

According to the UvA’s 2018-2021 budget plan, the actual budget for the academic year 2018-2019 was adapted to compensate for a deficit of 9.6 million euros through adjustments in staff costs, tuition fees and a rise in government grants. Nuria Zantman has stated that “these changes are made so the UvA can function with less staff. These changes include for example the sharing of courses within a study with other studies, the merging of small Master’s [programs] and the growing emphasis on minors instead of program-specific electives.” However, Zantman insists that the Student Council will remain vigilant and committed to ensuring that “no significant damage will occur to the quality and diversity of our education.I personally hope we can come together with loads of student councils across the Netherlands, central and faculty councils alike, to work together in order to keep sending a message to the government.”


The Ongoing Battle

According to Alba van Vliet, who is the head of the ASVA student union, the budget cuts and the protests against them are still ongoing at the UvA as well as on national level. While the aim of the protests last year was primarily to raise students’ awareness about the budget cuts and stimulate their engagement in all aspects of their education, van Vliet says that “this year we’re actively going to advocate for more money to education in the Netherlands and a better quality of education.” She states as a main goal to make sure that these budget cuts do not happen and that enough money is invested in education.

WOinactie, a student organization campaigning to reduce workload and pressure at Dutch universities, is planning an ‘actionweek’ starting on the September 24th. This week aims to inform those in and around the UvA about the budget cuts and changes to the education system. Alba van Vliet told the Amsterdammer that “in this week, different groups of teachers and students will organise actions about the budget cuts and other problems currently facing higher education. The ASVA Student Union will also take part in this week. We want to make sure that the voice and concerns of students about the current state of the University and higher education is clearly heard.” Furthermore, according to Nuria Zantmann, the UvA is also taking part in supporting the WOinactie actionweek; “The CvB of the UvA wrote a letter to the minister and the dean of the Faculty of Humanities has spoken out in the media for more money as well. These are very important steps, but whether they are enough is still a topic of debate.”

The consequences of the budget cuts have already started to take their toll on university staffing, breadth of courses and university resources. The full extent of the damage caused by the cuts and UvA’s subsequent budget plan for 2018-2021 is yet to be seen and further ramifications are expected.

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Friends and family remember the life of UvA student

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“If I could only chose one word to describe him, it would be altruistic,” said Cristina Moya Altamirano. “It doesn’t matter if it was a small action, […] he always looked for perfection in everything he took charge.”

Moya and Kevin Alejandro Paredes met at the OnCampus introduction week. After noticing his latin physical appearance, she was surprised to learn he, too, was from Ecuador. Since that day, the two became close friends. “Alejandro was a very generous person, responsible, committed to any idea that got into his head, sometimes even in a stubborn way,” Moya admits.

Kevin Alejandro Paredes Yepez was a son, a brother and a friend to many. On Monday July 16, at the age of 24, Paredes lost his life after an unfortunate accident.

Cynthia Sofía Rivera, 22, third-year business and economics student at UvA, remembers with much joy when Paredes told her he would move to Amsterdam to study the same major in 2016. The two students had met in 2014 back in Ecuador. Both attended a course that prepared them to pass the exam to access public universities. Fortunately, they were part of the few who benefit from the SENESCYT scholarship, which is provided by the Ecuadorian government to allow students to study abroad. The Netherlands is the country that receives the less quantity of students from Ecuador.

Paredes dreamed to bring his knowledge to his country to help to its development. “He had great ideals for the development that Latin America needs,” said Rivera. “He had faith in his country, in the Latin American ground that saw him grow,” added Alejandro Martinez, a 19 year-old upcoming PPLE student at UvA who is another beneficiary of the scholarship.

“Alejandro was an exemplary, noble, very giving person, and a dreamer” remembers  Rivera. According to his father, Paredes’ dream was to graduate and go to Ecuador to teach in a University.

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Paredes stood out as an exceptional leader who believed in the strength of working as a team. He loved music and culture, but had a special interest in Latin-American culture.

While at UvA, Paredes founded the UvA Ecuadorian Society, in which he found long-lasting friendships. In October 2017, he especially made a difference in the Ecuadorian Consulate in The Hague, when he highlighted the opening of the consulate to respond to the needs of students.

For Alejandro Martinez, the association was a place to meet friends from his native country. “I didn’t really interact with [Paredes] until I started going out with the Ecuadorian students from elder generations,” he said.  The last Ecuadorian students who moved to Amsterdam, or the “new generation” as they called them, gathered in front of the J-K building to play ukulele and sing with the “older” generations. Even thought the two were not as close to each other back then, Martinez admits he had never felt as close to him as today. “The legacy that he left behind was what really got me closer to whom Alejandro was,” he said, “[…] he was a dreamer.”

For Cristina Moya Altamirano, Alejo, as she called him, was the kind of person that “one would want to have close to us until we get old.” “He used to say that us Ecuadorians have to stick together, that we have to take care of each other,” she said, “but at the end of the day, it was him who united us under any pretext.”

Kevin Alejandro Paredes was known for his ambition and heart-giving personality. “He had always been very kind, very cheerful” remembers his brother.

“He has left a mark on everyone who knew him,” said Martinez, “even on those, like myself, that got closer to [him later], […] [that got] inspired by the ideals he once had, and now live forever in our hearts.”

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On July 18, a solemn act was held at Casa Migrante in Van Ostedestraat, and on July 20, a Mass was held at the Sint-Nicolaaskerk in his honour.

As the life insurance only covers the repatriation expenses, Paredes’ friends created a GoFundMe in order to help the financing of his parents’ airfare tickets to go to Amsterdam and bring him back to Ecuador.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Isabel Bonnet is a 21-year-old second-year student in communication science at UvA. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Amsterdammer. Before its creation, she worked as a photo editor at the Independent Florida Alligator and did an internship at Le Monde.

Above 500 UvA Students Rally Against National Budget Cuts

Over 500 students and staff-members took the streets last Friday during the March for Education. Participants demonstrated against national budget cuts on higher education.

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Students hold a banner that reads “March for Education” in Dutch stand in front of De Dokwerker statue at Jonas Daniël Meijerplein, on Friday afternoon. Protesters demonstrated against cutbacks. Raluca Dumitrache/ Staff Photographer

The rally was the result of a union between the Humanities Rally UvA, the New University (NU), the ASVA student union and organisations in Groningen, Utrecht and Nijmegen. Overall, protesters asked for democracy, a fair funding structure, diversity and for the budget cuts not to affect the quality of education.

Protesters marched from Oudemanhuispoort to Roeterseilandcampus, where some set up their tents outside the campus. However, the demonstration was stopped at night, where the police evicted dozens of students. According to witnesses, many student were injured in the process. Protesters asked UvA President of the Executive Board, Geert ten Dam, to provide an explanation to the police intervention.

Rosanne Beentjes, a sociology student at UvA, believes the march aimed to draw attention on the issue and involve more people to the movement. “I hope this will become a broader movement in society,” Beentjes said. Like the 23-year-old student, protesters believe the march would be a way to raise awareness on the issue no only at an university level, but in society as well. “Maybe we can make it broader than only this student movement,” Beentjes explains. “I think there are a lot of capitalist and neoliberal influences in society […] and corporate businesses are really having a big influence of what’s going on in society and this is really an example of this and it what is happening at the university.” Indeed, the march has been covered by important news media such as Vice, De Telegraph, Het Parool and NL Times.

Participants claimed that students from faculties other than the one of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences should be equally concerned about the changes. “I am a humanities student and this kind of policy will gradually take away the funding from the whole [degree] because there’s […] the whole idea about reducing courses and programmes, so that’s going to affect everybody” said Parvez, a 32-year-old literature and cultural analysis student at UvA. “Maybe it’s not gonna affect [me] while I am still a student, but future students will be affected.” Indeed, after the government announced  cutbacks of 183 million on higher education, different sectors of the University of Amsterdam were announced to be directly affected. In an email sent to the student of the Humanities and Social Behavioural Sciences faculty, a decrease in tutorial hours and in amount of lecturers for next year were announced.

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A flyer from the March for Education reads “Struggle for quality. Struggle against budget cuts.” The rally started at Oudemanhuispoort and ended at Roeterseilandcampus on Friday evening. Raluca Dumitrache/ Staff Photographer

In 2015, students occupied the Maagdenhuis for over a month to protest similar issues. Doubt persists among people who wonder if the efforts will lead to a change this time. For Parvez, they will only get to make a change if they continue to raise awareness. “My personal experience tells me that no movement can succeed with one or two events,” he explains. “Back there (in my country) we’ll get beat up, with teargas and stuff […]. This (protest) is in that way much better, you can protest, negotiate and be democratic about it.”

Photographer at The Amsterdammer

Low Participation Rates on this Year’s Student Council Elections

The director announced the results of this year’s Student Council elections on May 24 at Maagdenhuis. Every Spring, students from the University of Amsterdam are invited to vote for the new Faculty Student Council and the Central Student Council members. The newly elected council members will commence their positions on September 1st, 2018.

While FSR members speak on behalf of the students from their faculty about the issues and policies with the dean, CSR members meet with the Executive Board and speak on behalf of all the students from UvA.

This year, the results were only available on the Dutch version of UvA’s website, which may explain the low interest or awareness students have towards the elections. With a small increase since last year, the participation remained relatively low; only 23.7 percent of participation, of which 386 of the votes where blank. Unexpectedly, the Faculties that did not put forth more than one party, had higher rates of participations. Indeed, the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences only had 12,6 percent of participation rate, and the Central Student Council 11,2 percent.

The results were the following:

 

Central Student Council

Out of the 14 members of the Central Student Council, 7 are elected directly by the students and 7 by the Faculty Student Councils. These memebers were divided as follows:

UvA Sociaal: 4 seats

De Vrije Student: 2 seats

Red UvA: 1 seat

 

Faculty Student Council

Amsterdam Law School

This year, there was a participation rate of 26,2 percent at Amsterdam’s Law School.

De Vrije Student: 1 seat

OpRecht: 6 seats

Inter: 5 seats

 

Economics and Business

This year, there was a 19,5 percent rate of participation for the Faculty of Economics and Business (FSR FEB UvA), which is 4 percent higher than last year.

List Sefa: 7 seats

UvA Sociaal: 3 seats

 

Faculty of Dentistry

This year, there was a 54,7 percent rate of participation for the Faculty of Humanities.

ACTA Beter: 8 seats

 

Faculty of Humanities

This year at the Faculty of Humanities, there was a 16,9 percent rate of participation.

TOF: 8 seats

De Vrije Student: 2 seats

Red UvA: 2 seats

 

Faculty of Medicine

This year, there was a 35,2 percent rate of participation for the Faculty of Medicine. Surprisingly, even though only one party participated in the elections, there were 16 blank votes out of 507.

MFAS: 7 seats

 

Faculty of Science

This year, there was a 19,9 percent rate of participation for the Faculty of Science.

LIEF: 7 seats

Patij Stout: 2 seats

SLAAFS: 2 seats

Malou Sprinkhuizen: 1 seat

 

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

There was a 12,7 percent rate of participation for the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences this year.

UvA Sociaal: 7 seats

Hervorm FMG: 2 seats

De Vrije Student: 2 seats

Red UvA: 1 seat

Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Isabel Bonnet is a 21-year-old second-year student in communication science at UvA. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Amsterdammer. Before its creation, she worked as a photo editor at the Independent Florida Alligator and did an internship at Le Monde.

UvA Communication and Media Studies Are Running the Game Worldwide: What the Rankings Don’t Say

On February 28, the magazine QS World University Rankings, revealed this year’s university world rankings for multiple subjects. Among them, the University of Amsterdam jumped from second to first worldwide in the Communication & Media Studies category. With over 5,500 students and 200 programs taught in English, the University has been downgrading over the years in the overall ranking worldwide, going from 55th in 2016 to 58th this year.

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An archive photo from Roeterseiland campus. Isabel Bonnet / Staff

Embellishing the university’s reputation and the faculty proudness, some unsatisfied students questioned the rankings. In September 2016, UvA premiered the English track of the Communication Science degree. However, it started with complains and discouragement from the students. During their third block of the first semester last year, communication science students signed a petition to re-do an exam they believed was not correctly translated. Happening multiple times afterwards, it was a major discussion of this year’s Student Council elections. Parties such as UvA Sociaal aimed to prevent degrees to be taught in English before a clear translation of the courses was assured. “It is important to keep quality rather than quantity of students,” Ksenya Golub told the The Amsterdammer earlier last week. The 21-year-old and second-year communication science student believes that the university was not ready to create the English track for the Communication Science degree, and that it should only happen “if they have the substainable education level already.”

Unlike Golub, second-year communication science student and student representative, Ali Kutlu, believes that difficulties and problems were expected. “We are the first class of English track of Communication Science, and therefore, there was obviously room for improvement,” he said. Kutlu moved from Turkey to Germany before deciding to continue his studies in  Amsterdam. Overall, the 22-year-old student is satisfied with the course. “I am actually quite happy about my student life so far, because my initial goal was to pass every single course until the second semester of the third year,” he said. “I was lucky enough and good enough to achieve it, I’m really happy about it.” For him, the improvements needed are not in the quality of education provided, but rather in the help given to international students to find an accommodation.

A first-year student in communication science at UvA, who preferred to stay anonymous, shared Kutlu’s opinion on the university and experience as a student. However, the student said it is the first time he attends a university, and therefore , he cannot make any valid comparisons with other institutions himself. “As far I as know, […] Communication Science […] [at] UvA got selected for the first place due to its high research quality. But I doubt that research quality is really relevant for us students. The quality of the lectures and the tutorials are way more important for us.” Indeed, the rankings do not specify for which degree the subject “Communication & Media Studies” lie on.

Which of Communication Science or Media Studies ranked first worldwide? Was it both? Or the combination of both of them? The rankings do not specify whether the Dutch or English track is evaluated, or if both of them are taken into account. Furthermore, the rankings are created based only on the following criteria: academic reputation, employer reputation, citation per paper and h-index citation. Having 100 percent in academic reputation and highly graded in the two last that together cover research papers, the University of Amsterdam only scored 73.7 percent in employer reputation. Being a research-based university, the two other criteria were expected to be satisfying as well. However, if the universities would have been ranked by the employer reputation only, UvA would have ranked 78th worldwide and the MIT would be running the game instead, followed by the Stanford University and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Experiencing the daily quality of the university, students shared their opinion about their satisfaction towards the university, and the ranking of the Communication Science track at the UvA. Overall, students do not seem to deny the general quality of the Communication Science course, especially in the research field. However, it is clear that there are some doubts about the quality of the English track of Communication Science. Moreover, there seems to be a question mark about the relevance of the ranking, whether it mirrors the quality of the lectures and tutorials or not, which is surely one of the most relevant academic aspect for the students.

Avenue reporter, Spring 2018