Science - March 4, 2004

Student clubs will have to present programmes to win activity grants

The system by which grants are awarded to students who are active in student groups is going to change. Student Council members had doubts about their own proposal for changes, and University Rector Professor Bert Speelman stepped in with a new plan. He will be chair of the committee that will draw up the new criteria.

An ad-hoc committee composed of the Rector, three Student Council members and two members of staff will draw up a balanced set of criteria that organisations must fulfil in order to be eligible for the grants Wageningen University hands out to student organisations. The student organisations will also have to give an oral presentation of what they do and why they need a grant. The committee members will award points to the organisations for each criterion and then average the scores. The budget will then be divided among the organisations on the basis of the average scores. The student clubs will have to apply each year for a grant. About ten percent of the total budget will be reserved for unforeseen events and to support good ad-hoc initiatives.

The student parties had already presented their own proposal during the Student Council meeting, but this was a compromise based on a proposal originally submitted by the VeSte faction. “During the meeting we discovered that the factions were not entirely sure about their own proposal,” explained Speelman. “They immediately asked that negotiations be suspended, and I agreed with the chair that we would take a step back and talk again.” The Rector was able to convince the student parties of his idea during informal discussions. “The next day we had to give our verdict, and all factions gave the go-ahead,” said Marcel Govaert of the progressive student faction PSF.

Speelman continued his justification: “This is also how we divide up the basic budget for the research institutes.” It is not that the Rector wants to make this plan compulsory, but he wants to see more strategic thinking in the way the grant money is distributed. “The students have to decide themselves what their priorities are. You can choose for what I call a ‘policy-poor’ option, and give all organisations what they have received in the past. But you can also go for a ‘policy-rich’ option, and that’s what I’m in favour of.”

“It’s a step in the dark,” commented VeSte member Frank Wagemans, “But it offers opportunities. Despite being very different from VeSte’s original proposal, the student faction has agreed to the new proposal, because as Wagemans put it, it’s likely to lead to fewer objections than the compromise first suggested by the Student Council. A list of criteria can be used in future years as well. Govaert: “I really can’t think of any disadvantages to the plan. As far as we are concerned the main issue is that the money is distributed fairly on the basis of clear criteria.”

The student groups involved will receive a letter soon from the committee with the list of criteria, and a request to present the activities they have planned for the coming year.

Guido van Hofwegen