TOF believes that the faculty should not be a diploma factory through which students are led as quickly as possible. The fixation on production and efficiency has led to a university where students are a number to be discharged by their programmes as quickly as possible. There is an increasing high school mentality, a decline in the number of large courses that are offered, and there is too much pressure to perform placed on students. TOF believes that education is not a matter of quickly finishing a bachelor, but a matter of developing oneself.
Nominal graduation means that universities will have to pressure their students to complete their studies quickly instead of developing themselves, thereby intensifying pressure on students and causing courses to lack depth or enough opportunities to receive feedback.TOF believes that students should be encouraged to take part in extracurricular activities, such as doing a board year with a student body, even if this leads to study delay. TOF therefore maintains that the rule that the faculty only receives money for students who complete their studies in nominal+1 must be abolished. The financial allocation should also not be determined by student numbers.
For years, the Faculty of Humanities has had to economise and is likely to have difficulty surviving in the future. TOF believes that higher education institutions in the Netherlands should join forces and fight in The Hague for more money for higher education—especially for the Humanities. It is about time that people realized that the future of the Netherlands is educated here—not only at the Faculty of Humanities, but at all higher education institutions in the Netherlands. For this reason, TOF supports the protests against cutbacks in higher education. The party will fight for better education: outside as well as inside the student council.
If cuts cannot be avoided, quality of education comes first, even in times of austerity. Before cutting the education budget, all other options must be considered. The variety of disciplines is what makes this faculty unique and must be protected at all times. TOF will therefore fight for the preservation of small studies and elective courses as well as minors. Although smaller programmes are often more expensive, the value of education must be measured by scientific work rather than by a financial scale.
If cuts have to be made, the process must be transparent for both students and employees. In response to the cutbacks, interdisciplinary education should not be used to attract more students. Instead, we need to preserve as many disciplines as possible: it is difficult to regain expertise once it has disappeared from the faculty. TOF supports the Works’ Council (OR-FGw) in its fight against the high workload for teachers: even if cuts are made, the mental health of teachers and employees must be guaranteed.
The quality of education is top priority at TOF: a programme should only change the language of instruction to English if that improves the quality of education. Switching to English in order to attract more students should never be the only reason for a change in the language of instruction. If a programme decides that a language change is required, it must submit a clear plan to the Student Council that shows that the disadvantages of the change of language have been mapped out and overcome. The support of teachers and students in the language change of the programme is of utmost importance, and they must also have access to free academic English lessons after the change. Given that the faculty has expressed the wish to be a bilingual faculty, TOF believes that classes in academic English and academic Dutch should be offered to all students and staff of the Faculty free of charge. In order to become a truly bilingual faculty, all correspondence from the Faculty must be in two languages: Dutch and English.
Binding Study Advice (BSA)
According to TOF, advice that is binding is a true oxymoron. The BSA must be abolished, and TOF advocates for non-binding study advice instead of BSA. Although the first year can be an indication for the success of the study, the student must be the one who ultimately decides whether the study can be resumed. Students who have difficulty with their first year should be spared the stress of a negative BSA. Instead, they should receive proper study guidance.The respective abolition and relaxation of the BSA in light of the coronavirus pandemic is a first step in the right direction.
High School Mentality
Due to the university’s decision to get students through their studies as quickly as possible have seen an increase of a “high school mentality” at university. TOF is against compulsory attendance at seminars, as attendance is the responsibility of the student. Students should not have to be forced to make weekly assignments for the sole purpose of a teacher checking whether they have done their reading. Because the faculty is currently imposing the minimum number of tests a course must have, there has been a growth in the number of AVV/NAV assignments. TOF believes that the faculty should not dictate the organization of each individual assignment: the teacher knows what is best for the course. In addition, programmes and programme committees should be encouraged to take a critical look at the number of tests within a course.
TOF is of the opinion that the current fraud and plagiarism regulations do not meet the requirements. For example, no distinction is made between exam assignments and weekly (ungraded) assignments. At the moment there is also too much attention for plagiarism and too little for intellectual fraud (copying other people’s ideas). TOF believes that the regulations should provide an incentive, but that the real awareness among students about this subject can only take place within education. Within curricula more attention must be given to scientific integrity and correct use and citation of sources: this is the only way the faculty can foster responsible scholars. Moreover, a faculty vision on this subject should be established, and PCs must be given tools to give the subject of scientific integrity a better place within the curriculum.
TOF is also of the opinion that all members of the academic staff should make their ancillary positions visible on the website. Only in this way can it be proactively demonstrated that there are no questionable interests or conflicts of interest. In addition, integrity must be a constant subject of discussion and self-assessment, just like social safety.
Finally, TOF wants to strengthen the position of masters students and PhD students with regard to scientific integrity; it should be easier for them to tip the CWI anonymously without running the risk of being charged for this by their supervisor.
The end of 884
The current yearly layout, uniform 884 system, does not leave enough room for the wishes of students and teachers of a specific study programme. There are many complaints about the system, specifically the four-week blocks, which are found to be too short to be useful or effective. TOF believes that making 884 flexible will aid in improving the quality of education. If a relaxation of 884 proves to be inadequate, a different annual layout must be considered. If possible, TOF would like to see room for reflection built in within the 884—or another system.
Currently the faculty is doing a pilot for a new yearly layout: 774, where every 8-week block has a ‘class-free’ week at the beginning. The implementation of the 774 pilot has been very chaotic and communication from the fDB has been lacking. Moreover, the 774 layout, while it does provide some time for reflection and rest, causes either more work pressure for teachers and students in the later weeks of the course, when the material from week 1 is moved, or a decrease in the amount of material and the study load of a course, when the material from week 1 is simply removed. Because of these reasons, TOF is not in favour of implementing 774, but instead suggests looking at a different layout entirely, ideally without the 4-week blocks.
The idea of flexible learning receives a lot of support from administrators and neoliberal student parties. TOF rejects the experiment and is against expanding it to other faculties and study programs. The further introduction of flexible studying will lead to the flexibilization and commercialization of our education. When paying per credit, coherence in the curriculum is lost and the overall quality declines. Our faculty is no FEBO. However, TOF is of the opinion that proper research should be done to address the needs of students who cannot study full-time, such as broadening and improving part-time education, introducing tuition-free boards, and broader grants from the Profileringsfonds for special situations.
The corona crisis must not be misused to push through the neoliberal agenda of flexible learning and further flexibilization of education. Right now it is necessary to reconsider the nature and structures of our education, but then that reconsideration must take place. TOF is against the ill-considered, hasty introduction of study models that have an unforeseen and irreversible impact on our education.
TOF believes that sustainability should get a higher priority on both the faculty and on the central level. Last year, following a recommendation from the Student Council, the Faculty of Humanities decided that the standard catering at the Faculty of Humanities should be vegetarian from now on. TOF is pleased to see that the faculty has made this choice and hopes that the UvA and Faculty of Humanities will become more sustainable. Sustainability must play a major role in the development of the new campus, the University Quarter, in the inner city. Future real estate plans must be energy-neutral and gas-free.
In the field of sustainability TOF fights, among other things, for the following:
- Less meat and more vegetarian and plant based options in the canteen. The caterer must also be encouraged to do research about more sustainability and less waste in the UvA canteens.
- Lactose free milk alternatives in all coffee machines.
- Waste separation at all UvA locations, especially at the new University Quarter.
- Better promotion of the discount offered in the canteens if you bring your own coffee cup.
- Encouraging staff and students to print less.
- Switch to a greener bank.
- The UvA only funds/reimburses plane tickets for staff and students (ex. for attending conferences) if there is no feasible alternative.
- Climate neutral UvA locations where possible.
- Stimulating study associations to make sustainable decisions. TOF also believes that there should be more financial incentives for study associations to make sustainable decisions.
- Facilitate and encourage programmes to include sustainability in the curricula.
- Encourage students to make their personal habits more sustainable.
TOF sees this list as neither exclusive nor exhaustive when it comes to sustainability initiatives. It is important that both the Faculty of Humanities and the entire UvA continue to think about ways to become more sustainable. Someone should be employed to oversee that the Faculty of Humanities is more sustainable as a whole.
It is known that there is a large shortage of student housing in Amsterdam. Although it is even more difficult for international students to find a room, international recruitment is still done by UvA. The promotion is not realistic: when international students come to Amsterdam, it is often not as promised. TOF believes that the university should stop working with international recruitment agencies as long as the housing shortage has not been resolved. International students who come to Amsterdam at their own initiative should be well informed of the difficulties they may encounter in finding a home.
According to TOF, the provision of information about the difficult housing market in Amsterdam must be better communicated to all students, Dutch and International, who come to study in Amsterdam. The UvA must be realistic when it comes to promoting itself and the city. For instance, students should be warned about the safety of some campuses, and there needs to be a disclaimer about scams on housing websites. To resolve the housing shortage among students, TOF also believes that the UvA should actively enter into a partnership with the municipality of Amsterdam.
Students must have access to affordable, nutritious and good food throughout the day, even in the evenings. In order to ensure this, TOF wants the old mensa in the city centre to return. When the current caterer’s contract expires, TOF wants all options to be open. In the new contract, lower prices must be guaranteed, or the prices must be reduced by having the UvA itself take care of the catering and canteens. In the canteens there needs to be enough vegan and vegetarian food available, and for the options offered in general, more attention must be paid to the wishes of the student population (such as allergies and religious restrictions).