Buildings are being occupied in Utrecht, Nijmegen and Amsterdam; in Wageningen they take photos of students with a speech bubble. This week, Dutch students are protesting against the threat of cuts.
One o'clock on Monday afternoon. Karmijn van den Berg of the Wageningen Student Union stands by the Forum entrance with a bell and cardboard speech bubbles, and addresses students. Two smokers come along.
- 'Can I ask you something?'
- 'Are you against the cuts in higher education?'
- 'Um, yeah.'
The activist explains that Minister Plasterk wants to make cuts of twenty per cent and that he will probably abolish student grants. Would they like to take part in a photo petition?
They would. Hielke Sportel and Irene Kersbergen have their photo taken with the speech bubble saying Don't cut quality and access to higher education. 'You should look angry', says Hielke to Irene. Hielke takes the speech bubble, stares aggressively at the camera and shouts: 'We don't agree with this!' The photo will be handed to the minister.
After the photo, Hielke, a first year studying International Agrarian Trade, explains why he joined in. 'It will be very difficult without student grants. I don't know how I would be able to find the time to earn enough money for college fees, schoolbooks, food and accommodation.'
And if the grant is turned into a loan? Irene answers. 'Then you start your new life with debts. I don't want that.'
Today sees the start of a national week of protests against threatened cuts in student grants and teaching. The protests in other cities are more vehement. In Utrecht students have barricaded the Board offices, while lecture rooms have been occupied at the University of Amsterdam and Radboud University Nijmegen.