- Peter Pelzer
Student Politics 101
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
In May 2020, almost nine months into my studies at Maastricht University, I was taken by surprise: elections! The students of Maastricht choose their representatives on the University Council and the Faculty Councils. What a great opportunity to make my voice heard! However, I had never heard of the University Council. So I wondered: Who is it that makes my voice heard?
If you too didn't know that UM has a University Council or you don't know what it does, this is not entirely your fault. Student politics in Maastricht enjoy little attention. To make students' voices heard not just in theory, but in practice, the Maastricht Diplomat will publish a series of articles and interviews concerning the work of the University Council, the student parties and how to get involved. For a start, here is everything you need to know about your representative body of choice, the University Council: Student Politics 101.
What is the University Council?
The University Council is the central representative body for students and staff of Maastricht University. It consists of 20 members. Half of the members are student representatives, the other half representing the university staff.
Composition and competences of the University Council are described in the UM Administrative and Management Regulations. In short, the university's 'constitution'. All universities in the Netherlands must have a University Council. In fact, the rules in the UM 'constitution' relating to the University Council are in large parts a literal copy of the minimum requirements for student representation prescribed by law.
The University Council is not a student union in the sense of an autonomous representative body as they exist at some universities. It cannot act on its own initiative and on account of the whole student body of Maastricht University, for example by organising events or offering services to students. Instead, the Council is confined to its role as an organ within UM's organisational structure and its competences listed in the UM 'constitution'.
What does the University Council do?
The University Council oversees the work of the university's Executive Board and assists it with advice. Some fundamental changes to the university's structure, for example amendments of the 'constitution', require the University Council's consent; so does the six-year strategy of the university. That means that if the Council does not agree, the strategy or amendment proposed by the Executive Board will not be adopted.
When it comes to the university's short- or medium-term management, e.g. defining teaching policies or allocating budget, the University Council plays a lesser role. It acts as an advisor to the Executive Board but cannot ultimately decide on any of these matters. The Board must, however, inform the Council of its policies, the university's finances and teaching activities at least annually.
The monthly sessions of the University Council are public, although currently held via Zoom. The schedule and agenda are published on the university website in advance. If you want to follow the meetings, you must register with the University Council registrar. Policy proposals from the Executive Board are first discussed in three designated committees which also meet once a month.
Who represents me on the University Council?
The nine student representatives on the University Council are elected annually by all students of the university and must themselves be UM students. While the last elections, held in May, gained at least some publicity – a little more than 21% of all students voted – the outcome did not have the same luxury. Even four months later, the election results cannot be found via the English university website.
The representatives on the University Council are chosen from party lists that were drawn up before the election. The student political parties are mostly student associations, but can also be informal groups of students or even individual candidates. This year, six student political parties competed for the ten seats on the Council:
KAN Party: 22 % (850 votes) 2 seats
SHAPE/Ouranos: 19 % (740 votes) 2 seats
NovUM: 11 % (433 votes) 1 seat
United Students of Maastricht: 9 % (356 votes) 1 seat
Volt Maastricht: 2 % (79 votes) 0 seats
DOPE: 37 % (1,464 votes) 4 seats
Total: 21 % turnout (3,922 votes)
The University Council is currently chaired by FASoS associate professor Dr. Amanda Kluveld and Annabel Vonken (Vice Chair), a student representative for SHAPE/Ouranos.
What about the Faculty Councils?
The Faculty Councils largely mirror on faculty level the work and structure of the University Council. They were elected in May together with the University Council:
DOPE: 25 % (98 votes) 4 seats
NovUM: 21 % (77 votes) 1 seat
United Students of Maastricht: 28 % (103 votes) 2 seat
KAN Party: 25 % (92 votes) 1 seat
Total: 23 % turnout (370 votes)
Frank Wijffels 2 % (30 votes) 0 seats
DOPE: 42 % (709 votes) 4 seats
KAN Party: 6 % (93 votes) 0 seats
NovUM: 11 % (178 votes) 1 seat
SHAPE: 40 % (675 votes) 4 seats
Total: 31.414 % turnout (1,685 votes)
Represent Maastricht: 3 % (10 votes) 0 seats
NovUM: 24 % (94 votes) 1 seat
SHAPE/Ouranos: 53 % (206 votes) 3 seats
DOPE: 20 % (79 votes) 1 seat
Total: 21 % turnout (389 votes)
Marco Fiorito: 4 % (29 votes) 0 seats
DOPE: 38 % (268 votes) 3 seats
FSE Sustainability: 6 % (42 votes) 0 seats
NovUM: 11 % (76 votes) 1 seat
KAN Party: 41 % (289 votes) 2 seats
Total: 32 % turnout (704 votes)
DOPE: 27 % (178 votes) 2 seats
KAN Party: 11 % (72 votes) 0 seats
NovUM: 13 % (89 votes) 1 seat
Ouranos: 35 % (232 votes) 2 seats
United Students of Maastricht: 15 % (98 votes) 1 seat
Total: 24 % turnout (669 votes)
DOPE: 49 % (294 votes) 3 seats
United Students of Maastricht: 51 % (301 votes) 3 seat
Total: 12 % turnout (595 votes)
Where can I find out more?
First of all, stay tuned to the Maastricht Diplomat! We will cover the work of the University Council as well as general developments in Maastricht student politics on a more regular basis. If you want to find out even more, you may find some of these links useful:
University Council overview (including contact of the registrar and link to the agendas)
University Council regulations (rules of procedure, in Dutch)
University Council schedule & agenda (for login details see University Council overview above)
UM Administrative and Management Regulations (UM 'constitution')
Higher Education and Scientific Research Act (in Dutch)