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A more broadly representative senate, a charter in which core values are laid down and four different models for governing the university: these are the main proposals submitted by the Democratisation and Decentralisation Committee.

Lisa Westerveld presents the final report of the Democratisation and Decentralisation Committee to Geert ten Dam.
Lisa Westerveld presents the final report of the Democratisation and Decentralisation Committee to Geert ten Dam. (Photo by Suzanne Blanchard)

The Committee presented its results on Monday, 24 October. The proposals will be put to UvA students and employees in a consultative referendum to be held in late November or early December.

CSR Chair, Karen Maex and Geert ten Dam applaud Democratisation and Decentralisation Committee
Chair of the Central Student Council Alex Tess Rutten, Karen Maex and Geert ten Dam applaud the Democratisation and Decentralisation Committee. (Photo by Suzanne Blanchard)

New kind of senate

‘A broad-based forum that will help determine the direction for the UvA, and which possesses its own right of initiative, could be a major game-changer,’ Geert ten Dam, president of the Executive Board, said upon receiving the report. ‘This might be a new kind of senate, as proposed by the Committee, or an academic council of the type you see at universities abroad. What's important is that various perspectives are represented: lecturers and researchers, both permanent and temporary employees; Professors; PhD candidates and students. Working together to lay the foundation for a new Strategic Plan or common framework of values, or to promote the interests of diversity, would be a valuable experience for us as Board members.’

According to Ten Dam, a charter could contribute to establishing a shared vision on the University's social mandate. ‘We have a Strategic Plan, but not an explicitly described framework of values. Investment in a common narrative about the value of ambitious education and research, both to individuals and to society at large, is necessary. The Committee has expressed this in no uncertain terms.’

Representation

The report delves deeply into the current representative structure and the perception that policy is typically handed down from above. Ten Dam endorses the assertion that many students and employees feel a lack of ownership with regard to their own educational experience. ‘We are working with the deans to strengthen the Boards of Studies. We also feel that stakeholders within the research institutes and the various departments should be allowed a more active role in the joint determination of the respective paths of those groups. For us this will mean maintaining a hands-off approach with regard to the day-to-day educational and research practices of teams of scientists; providing encouragement and support for innovation when desired; and taking forceful action when the interests of students or employees, or those of our social mandate, require that we do so. While checks and balances are necessary in order to ensure quality, quality assurance must not become an impediment.’

Ten Dam thanks the Committee and others involved for their work over the recent period. The consultative referendum will be organised by the Committee, conducted by research agency Ruigrok and facilitated by the UvA. Ten Dam: ‘I'd like to call on each and every one of you to participate, so the referendum will have a great turnout. We, in turn, can benefit from your presence to learn which of the Committee's proposals can count on widespread support.’