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Why standing as a candidate for University participation pays off

Do you want to promote the interests of students or staff? If you do, put yourself forward as a candidate for the University Council or the Faculty Council between 5 and 8 April. Two council members, PhD candidate Elisabeth Kerr and Law student Mante Kaaks, tell us about their experiences.

The University elections will be held this year from 9 to 13 May; if we want to have a true democracy, we need enough candidates. PhD candidate Elisabeth Kerr is a member of the University Council representing PhDoc. Law student Mante Kaaks is a member of the Faculty Council of Leiden Law School on behalf of student party  ONS. We asked these two experienced representatives four questions. 

Why did you decide to play an active part in the University Council/Faculty Council?

Elisabeth Kerr: ‘I’m originally from the UK and was curious about how a Dutch university works. I first got involved in participation at my institute, which gave me a good insight into what works well and what is going less well within the University. I then became a candidate for the University Council. All the Council members together make sure that as many different voices as possible are heard in University decision-making, which is crucial for a university to function well.’  

Mante Kaaks: ‘It’s important that students are represented and that they have some influence on the decisions that are taken. Participation is by no means a given. It’s a right that students in the sixties fought really hard for. I also wanted to make my own contribution to university democracy.’ \

As a member of the participation bodies, you:
•    Closely follow developments within the University 
•    Give your managers advice both independently and when they ask for it 
•    Have a say in decisions on important issues
Read all about becoming a candidate on Leiden University/Stand as a candidate

What improvements do you want to make?

Elisabeth Kerr: ‘I want international students and staff to be even more involved. We can do that by having more things in two languages, and making sure their voices are heard in participation bodies like the University Council. Another issue is that there need to be more permanent contracts and we have to stand up for staff with a temporary contract. Everyone should have the opportunity to work on their development.’  

Mante Kaaks: ‘An important issue at the Law School is the ‘clean’ grade lists.  Employers want to see whether potential employees have failed any exams and they ask students to request complete grade lists from their faculty. This is causing students a lot of extra stress. We have raised the issue with the Faculty Board, and they are now giving it their consideration.’   

What are you proud of when you look back at your work for the Council?

Elisabeth Kerr: ‘We organised some important discussions, on financing and expanding contracts, for example. I’m also proud that we were able to reach a lot of people and represent their interests even during the online corona period. That was a particularly difficult time for young researchers who were having to combine their work with their responsibilities as carers.’ 

Mante Kaaks: ‘Over the past year we’ve also improved the dialogue with the Faculty Board. Not only do we talk to one another during the meetings, we also get in touch outside the meetings. The contact between us has become more structural.’   

What do you want to say to people who are considering standing as candidates?

Elisabeth Kerr: ‘As part of the University Council, you come into immediate contact with the Board and the management of the University. You can really do something with your ideas about how to improve things. I would definitely recommend anyone who’s thinking about it to put themselves forward.’ 

Mante Kaaks: ‘Working for a Faculty Council gives you a good insight into how organisations work and how decisions are made. You have the chance to develop useful skills, such as defending particular interests, that will stand you in good stead later.’  

The University elections will be held from 9 to 13 May 2022. During this time you can vote online for the student and staff representatives of the University Council, the student members of all the Faculty Councils and the LUMC Student Council.
Interim elections will be held for the staff members of the Faculty Councils of Social and Behavioural Sciences, and Archaeology, and for the Employee Council of Administration and Central Services. 

Nominations can be submitted for the 2022 elections from 5 April to 8 April 16.00 hrs. Students and members of staff can stand for election to the University Council by joining an existing party or by founding their own party. Check out the existing student parties. On the staff side, there are a few new developments. Besides PhDoc, the party for PhD candidates and postdocs, Universitair Belang (UB, is back again. Check also FNV Overheid and the Leidse Academische Gemeenschap (LAG). The way the nomination of candidates works for Faculty Councils differs because of different electoral systems. Read more about this at universiteitleiden.nl/Standing as a candidate 

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