Science - March 25, 2004

Moves to include international students on university Student Council

The International Student Panel and the Student Council are busy trying to get foreign students onto the Student Council for next academic year. If the move is to be successful though, international students need to stand for election.

Although the Executive Board of the university still has to come up with a clear package for foreign students who are elected to the council, this is expected to be ready by the summer. Arrangements have to be made to make it possible for international students to take a year off from their studies, as being active on the Student Council takes up a considerable amount of time. It is likely that students on the council will only have to pay European tuition fees. They will also receive the same grant as the Dutch student grant (650 euros a month) as well as compensation for attending meetings. The university will also pay the costs for the residence permit during that year. It is still unclear however whether this will be sufficient for non-EU students, who often pay high rent and are not eligible for cheap student insurance.

Rector of the university, Professor Bert Speelman has already said that he is willing to support international students who want to stand for election. Oscar Yawson, Geo Information Systems student, hopes that this promise is lived up to: “If Wageningen wants to train not only scientists, but also future leaders, the university should make sure there are no obstacles in the way of international students wanting to sit on the Student Council. Students should participate in the running of the university, and we need to build an environment that encourages this.”

Excluded

The Student Council is the highest student representative body in the university. There are twelve seats, which at present are all occupied by Dutch students. Tang Yun, chairwoman of the International Student Panel (ISP) wants to change that. “International students are not represented in the university. They feel excluded in the whole education policymaking process. We need to internationalise the university. If there is one body that students know, it is the Student Council. It is better known than the ISP, so that’s why we want to involve international students. Once there are international students on the Student Council policy documents will be written in English. It will get things moving, also at lower levels within the university,” argues Tang Yun.

Yawson continues: “We aren’t just here to finish our studies. Once I’m back in my country I want to be able to say: ‘Wageningen, that’s the university I helped to reshape.’ The ISP has no decision-making powers. We do not get any information. International students need to be on the Student Council. The university also needs to hear the international students’ voice if it is to make progress. How can the university promote its education in Africa for example if it does not know what the perspective is of African students here?”


Time to change

Yawson thinks it is time for an overhaul of the Student Council. “At present the council does not have the power to block a motion, but it should try to get these powers. It can be to the advantage to the Executive Board to have a more independent council, and having more powers would make the Student Council more attractive to potential candidates.” When asked whether there are other reasons to stand for election than ideals, Yawson says: “It’s definitely worth it; I learned a lot from my experience in student politics at other universities.” “It’s also good for your CV,” adds Tang Yun. “You learn a lot of skills, such as debating and convincing others,” says Frank Wagemans, councillor for the United Students Party (VeSte).

There are two ways in which students can be elected to the Student Council for the coming academic year. You can join one of the three student parties: VeSte, PSF or CSF. All of these are currently looking for candidates. Alternatively, students are free to stand for election with their own list of candidates. Lists can be registered up to 14 April with Marieke van Ittersum in the Central Office. Once you have got together a candidate list you’ll need to campaign for votes. The elections this year will take place between 27 May and 6 June.

Guido van Hofwegen

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