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From decentral selection procedures to ICT projects

On 14 and 15 March, students can register as candidates for a place in the University Council (UR) or one of the faculty councils. But what do these participation bodies do? UR member Femke van der Meulen takes us through the agenda for the next meeting.

It's quite a list, the agenda items for the meeting of the University Council on 20 March. It is the 190th meeting of the UR and the 5th for Femke. She is a student of Clinical Psychology, representing CSL (Christian Students in Leiden) in the council. There are several different committees that makeup the UR, including the Personnel, Student Affairs and Internationalisation committee and the Finance and Housing Committee.  Van der Meulen is a member of the Teaching and Research Committee (Onderwijs en Onderzoek, O&O). ‘I look at all the meeting documents and subjects, but only at the agenda items for O&O; I go through those with a fine-toothed comb.' 

Advice or approval

For the coming meeting, Van der Meulen's attention is focused on item 8 on the agenda: Limited capacity programmes 2018-2019 and capacity limitations in the post-first-year phase during 2019-2020. 'This document is being submitted to the UR for advice,' Van der Meulen explains. 'That means that we ask questions and make comments on a plan or proposal, but that it doesn't need the official approval of the UR.' Our advice is taken seriously by whoever introduces an agenda item. 'People really do listen to what the UR has to say.'

Decentral selection

The documents relating to the agenda item describe how the Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, Criminology and Tax Law programmes want to organise their selection methods for new students in the 2018-2019 academic year. All the programmes will carry on with the approach they are currently using, because it seems to work well. But Van der Meulen still has some questions. 'There is a schedule with how many places are available and how many are filled after the selection rounds. At Tax Law, fewer students were admitted than there were places available, or so it appears: 84 students and 125 places. That makes me question whether this is the right approach.'  

Compulsory matching

She intends to ask in the UR meeting whether compulsory matching wouldn't be a better idea for selecting students for Tax Law. With compulsory matching, prospective students have to go through an introduction programme, after which the department advises them whether or not to choose this programme. But even if the advice is negative, a student can still register. Van der Meulen: ‘This is a much friendlier selection method than the current procedures, and besides that it's cheaper to implement.' Before the meeting an answer comes from the Academic Affairs department: the fixed quote for Tax Law is actually designed to limit the intake for the post-first-year phase because there are a number of bachelor's programmes that give admission to the programme. If there are fewer applications than the number permitted, there's not a selection procedure. Van der Meulen: ‘It's good to have that stated clearly, for future students, too.' 

Other parties

In the O&O committee there are also UR members from other parties, both the student parties and the staff representatives.  Van der Meulen prepares this agenda item together with them. 'The members of PhDoc, the party that represents postdocs, wanted to know, for example, whether the selection procedures are compared with the same programmes in other cities. You can well imagine that students will opt for whichever selection procedure is less hassle.' 

Concrete plans

Once all the committee's questions are set out clearly, Van der Meulen can focus on the other agenda items. One of these is the 2017 Strategic Implementation Programme. It's an important document: this is where the Executive Board translates the 2015-2020 Institutional Plan into concrete actions and objectives for the coming year. 'Even though this item isn't a subject for my committee, I also read this document carefully, It contains all the University's plans, from accommodation to research programmes, and from innovation in teaching to partnerships.' She's looking forward to the discussions. 'It is the working programme of the Executive Board and it shows clearly what the priorities are for this year.' 

Sustainability and ICT projects

She and her fellow council members work their way through all the agenda iems. A supplementary memorandum on adding the sustainability score of the buildings ('a baseline measurement but fortunately with the ambition of raising the score') to the ICT project calendar for this year ('I'm curious to know what's going to be done about cybercrime and securing the university networks against hacks'). Isn't it enormously complex? Van der Meulen: ‘There are times when it's a lot of work, certainly, or the texts are hard to work your way through. But I am in favour of students' voices being heard in all these areas.' 

The University Council (UR) is the highest participation body within the University, with elected representatives from among both students and staff. The official task of the UR is to observe the Executive Board critically, to give the members advice and where necessary to contribute to decisions on important issues, as set out in the Higher Education Act. On 14 and 15 March students can put themselves up as candidates for the UR or Faculty Councils. Elections will be held in mid-May for the student members. 

Have you got any issues you want to pass on to the student members of the UR?  Or maybe you would like to play an active role in the UR or Faculty Council? If so, send a mail to UR@leidenuniv.nl or follow the University Council on Facebook.