The history behind the student representative body

In the early 1960s, students had no say in decision-making processes within higher education. Board members and teaching staff decided what happened without any further consultation. Towards the end of the decade, an increasing number of student protests were organised to lobby for student representation in decision-making within higher education, climaxing in the legendary sit-in at the University of Amsterdam’s Maagdenhuis building. For five days, food and other basic necessities were passed to the protesters through a window using an improvised bridge across the Handboogstraat. On 21 May 1969, the police brought an end to the sit-in but the students' message had been made loud and clear. A year later, legislation was finally passed to guarantee student representation in decisions governing higher education.

The University Governance Reform Act (the WUB) resulted in the following governance structure being introduced at TU Delft:

  • The University Council, which consisted of 1/3 students, 1/3 academic staff and 1/3 support staff.
  • The Executive Board, which implemented decisions taken by the University Council.

This system, however, was considered inefficient and cumbersome and over the years the Executive Board was granted increasing power through various changes made to the WUB. This was a source of great dissension between the University Council and the Executive Board and among the various University Council groups; dissension that was to diminish over the years.

Unhappy with the lack of decisiveness exhibited by the Dutch universities, the government then passed the Modernisation of University Managerial Organisation Act (MUB) in 1997. This brought considerable changes to the governing structure: namely that the Executive Board became the governing body while the University Council was divided into a Works Council and a Student Council that were to function as separate representative bodies. The University Council’s former governing role thus disappeared completely.

TU Delft is one of the few universities in the Netherlands with a fully-functioning full-time student council.