Go vote for the University Council Elections!

When we vote, we take back our power to choose, to speak up, and to stand with those who support us and each other. Even at the university level, voting can have a major impact on students’ daily lives. Yes, a lot of IRIO students are already aware of the importance of a vote, but are you also aware of the upcoming University Council elections? 

First of all – let’s dive into what the University Council does exactly. The University Council of the University of Groningen reflects the interests of the University’s staff members and students. They are concerned with policy and decision making processes, particularly in areas such as the institutional plan, the binding study advice, working conditions, the university’s budget or PhD scholarship programmes. It consists of both 12 members elected every other year from and by the staff, and 12 student representatives who are elected by the students yearly. Within the student section, there are currently four different parties from which the representatives are elected: Lijst Calimero, Doughnut Party, De Vrije Student (DVS), and Student Organisation Groningen (SOG). 

With the next University Council elections coming up from the 16th to the 20th of May, here is how the voting process is organised. The elections are being held yearly and every student registered at the University of Groningen is eligible for election and has the right to vote. This includes scholarship PhD students but excludes external students and those who are only registered for individual courses. Students will receive an invitation to vote and the voting instructions through their University email. The voting itself takes place online with the individual’s username and password, and the results will be published as soon as the counting is completed. To educate yourself about the different parties’ election plans, you can visit their website (attached below) where they publish information about themselves, their members on the voting list and their plans for the upcoming academic year.

But why should we vote and how does the University Council affect us and the quality of our student life?

As mentioned before, the University Council reflects the interests of students and staff. As one of this year’s candidates for the election, Hanna van Dalfsen, vice-chair of the SOG candidate faction, phrases it: “Voting for the University Council is a tool for students to have their voice expressed and opinions represented in the University’s decision making procedure.” According to her, the University Council offers the possibility to bridge the gap between the Board of the University, as the main decision making organ, and students and staff, who are affected by those same decisions.

Regarding the work of the University Council, its main task is to operate as a supervisory organ for the Board of the University. Van Dalfsen: “We make sure that the Board of the University does not have free play when it comes to decision making. There are three committees within the University Council; Governance, Finance and Research & Education. On all of these matters the University Council has the power to vote against a proposal of the Board of the University or their neighbouring parties with a simple majority.” This effectively means that the University Council has the power to change and affect proposals of the Board of the University in the interests of students and staff. Besides that, both the student parties and the staff faction also have the power to hand in their own proposals, amendments and memos to the University Council regarding policies and decisions. Two previous examples of initiatives of the University Council have been to extend the possibility of a free OV-Chipkaart to international students in response to the housing crisis so that students living further away did not have additional transportation costs, and the soft cut for master programmes, meaning you can start your master’s programme whilst still receiving last credits for your bachelor’s programme.

The University Council is the main organisation through which individual students can influence the decisions made by higher organs, such as the Board of the University. If you want to turn your dissatisfaction into action, make sure to keep an eye on your university email and cast your vote!

For further information, the websites of the student parties:
SOG: https://www.studentenorganisatie.nl/gallery
Lijst Calimero: https://www.lijstcalimero.nl/en/news/
DVS: https://dvs-groningen.com/verkiezingsprogramma/#page-content
Doughnut party: https://www.gssephdcouncil.nl/policy-plan

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