It was at the height of the discussion, which was held online yesterday during the three-hour University Council meeting, when vice-president Nicole Ummelen made a direct appeal to the members of the council to agree with the “temporary makeshift solution,” aimed to prevent the Bachelor’s program of Mechanical Engineering from having to deal with yet another excessive influx of students next academic year.
Program director Hans Kuerten already told Cursor last Friday that he was concerned that this would really present the department with unsurmountable problems. Student influx this academic year is at such a high level currently, according to Kuerten - a total of 384 freshmen enrolled - that it already poses the scientific and auxiliary staff with serious problems.
The matter eventually came down to the question of whether it’s still possible for Mechanical Engineering to introduce an enrollment restriction at this stage. Officially, the university has until the 1st of December to notify DUO about this, and prospective students need to preregister for that program no later than 15 January 2021. According to rector Frank Baaijens, introducing an enrollment restriction would be practically impossible during this phase. On the one hand, Baaijens said, this would take an enormous amount of administrative work, at a time when the system is under enough pressure as it is due to corona. On the other hand, the university would need to contact the prospective students who have preregistered already, and who are under the impression that a strict selection wouldn’t apply.
However, Baaijens was unable to answer when Ralph van Ierland, chairman of Group-één, wanted to know how many people this concerns exactly. Patrick Groothuis, director of Education & Student Affairs (ESA), couldn’t provide Van Ierland with the exact figures either. A few moments earlier, he had however summed up all the work involved in introducing an enrollment restriction. Van Ierland then wondered whether that first argument - too much work during such a short period of time - was valid. Could the University Council trust the Executive Board on this issue?
Baaijens responded immediately by posing the question whether the University Council no longer trusted the Executive Board’s announcement on the issue. This went too far, Van Ierland believed. He did however say that he felt he had a right to ask for further explanation as far as this part of the argument was concerned, in view of the fact that the Executive Board had used the group of prospective students as an argument without knowing exactly how many people it concerns.
Language and Accessibility bill
After vice-president Nicole Ummelen’s aforementioned interruption with her plea to agree to this “temporary makeshift solution in anticipation of the Language and Accessibility bill, which will hopefully provide the university with better means to regulate the influx at programs in the future,” the members of the University Council retreated for a thirty-minute consultation.
When they returned, Groep-één member Heleen van Rooij read out the comprehensive advice issued by the council committee that has concerned itself with this matter. The advice addressed all the arguments for voting in favor of the Executive Board’s proposal, as well as those for voting against the proposal. Arguments put forward included the deterrent effect of an enrollment restriction, which might significantly slow down influx, and the risk of a too high number of foreign Bachelor’s students, limiting accessibility for Dutch students.
But the proposal was also described as ‘a form of discrimination,’ and it was remarked that it isn’t in line with the university’s pursuit of an international classroom. The legal feasibility of the proposed entry requirement - making language proficiency at NT2 level mandatory - also still needed to be investigated.
During the ensuing roll-call vote on the proposal, something that hadn’t occurred during a University Council meeting for a very long time, the three members of student group DAS Eindhoven and all nine members of staff faction PUR voted in favor. The six members of Groep-één all voted against the proposal. However, a majority of twelve votes allowed the Executive Board and the Mechanical Engineering department to move forward.
Van Ierland made a personal comment in conclusion by adding that he understands that the introduction of an enrollment restriction would lead to much extra work. “But I believe that by carrying out that work, we would be showing the openness we claim is so important to us. This problem lies with the university, not with the international community. To me, that’s enough reason to vote against the proposal and to express my preference for an enrollment restriction.”