Short news

For their investigation into discrimination in the fraud hunt by student funding agency DUO, journalists from Investico, the Higher Education Press Agency, NOSop3 and daily newspaper Trouw have been awarded de Loep. Those awards for the best investigative journalism in the Netherlands and Flanders were presented in Flanders on Friday. There were three winners and an encouragement prize.

The Loep for “investigative investigative journalism” is for the articles on discrimination (in Dutch) by scholarship provider DUO. Press agency HOP initiated the investigation. The Dutch administration has since apologized.

The jury calls the publications ‘disconcerting and angering’ and speaks of a ‘well-founded, nail-biting conclusion’. Moreover, the jury praises the journalistic cooperation ‘by which all relevant target groups were reached and those responsible in politics and the administration were pushed into the defensive’.

The scandal

The basic scholarship is about two thousand euros a year higher when students move out of the house and no longer live with their parents. But DUO is afraid that students cheat and checks with home visits to see if they are indeed living away from home. Much went wrong in this process.

Due to a dubious algorithm and a blind spot for cultural differences, DUO remarkably often targeted students with a non-Western migration background. In court cases about this, 98 percent had a migration background. DUO lost 1 out of 4 cases.

Belia Heilbron and Anouk Kootstra (Investico), Bas Belleman (HOP), Sumeyye Ersoy and Salwa van der Gaag (NOSop3) and Merijn van Nuland (Trouw) were previously nominated for another important journalism prize: the Tegel in the research category.

Hein Cuppen (HOP)

Want to know more about the Loep and the other winners and nominees?

The curtain falls for ME faculty bar ‘t Lagerhuysch, the bar’s management writes in an Instagram message. The bar had already only been for private parties since February 2023, but even those will no longer take place.

The bar at the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Faculty was supposed to fully reopen after a renovation in February 2023. This did not happen because ‘t Lagerhuysch was found not to have the proper alcohol license. The president of management told Delta at the time that they thought they were hitching a ride on the university’s permit. This was not the case.

‘Ugly bar with beautiful people’

In the Dutch message to their followers, the bar management states that the the reason for closing is ‘the policy of the management team’. What this means is unknown. One student involved let it be known that they are not yet ready to talk to Delta until ‘more is clear and everything is finalized’. Delta has also asked a ME Faculty representative for a response, but that has not yet come.

‘t Lagerhuysch has served as a Faculty bar for 32 years. Students from Mechanical Engineering, Maritime Engineering and Clinical Technology studies could have drinks in the bar every Wednesday afternoon. The bar management is disappointed and suggests on Instagram that the bar should be remembered as ‘that ugly bar with beautiful people where we all had wonderful moments’.

Good news for Delft professor David Abbink. On Friday, science financier NWO announced that he has been awarded a Stevin Prize worth 1.5 million euros. This makes him one of a total of 14 laureates of the prize, which has been awarded annually since 2018. It is meant for researchers who are particularly successful in putting their knowledge to work for society.

Abbink is professor of human-robot interaction at TU Delft and is affiliated with the faculties of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. His approach is transdisciplinary: how can humans and intelligent machines such as robots work together to address complex societal challenges? He is also director of research and innovation center FRAIM, where he tries to answer that question by bringing different sectors together.

Goosebumps

To the NWO, he says he ‘literally got goose bumps’ when he heard he had won the prize. ‘It feels like tremendous recognition’, Abbink said in the press release. ‘This Stevin Prize reinforces my conviction that this learning process must continue, and also provides me, and therefore us, with practical support in developing and extending the scope of our approach.’

In addition to Abbink, three other researchers were awarded. Two Spinoza Prizes, often referred to as ‘the Dutch Nobel Prizes’, went to Bernet Elzinga (professor of stress-related psychopathology, Leiden University) and Detlef van Vuuren (professor of integrated assessment of global environmental change, Utrecht University and researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency).

The second Stevin Prize is for Professor of Public Administration Paul ‘t Hart (Utrecht University) who, according to NWO, is among the most influential public administration scholars in the country. Although already awarded now, the prizes will not be presented until 2 October.

Delft scientists awarded in the past

The Stevin Prize has been won once before by a TU Delft researcher. That took place in 2019, when the prize went to microbiologist Jack Pronk. The Spinoza Prize has gone to a Delft researcher eight times since its introduction in 1995, from 2018 to 2021 even four years in a row. That last year, quantum research Lieven Vandersypen was one of the winners.

Students protested at the Senate on Tuesday morning against the proposed Affordable Rent Act. They fear the law will lead to an increase in room shortages.

With the law, outgoing minister Hugo de Jonge wants to limit the possibility to split up homes into student rooms.

Several student organisations and associations, including the National Chamber of Societies (LKvV), student council party Oras and association Delft Student Corps, fear the law will increase room shortages. ‘Students fear that landlords will sell their student houses once this law comes into force,’ they write in a joint press release.

(Photo; Oras)

To reinforce the protest, a student house was set up (see photo). Earlier, students also sent a letter (in Dutch) to the Senate, House of Representatives and various ministries expressing their concerns about the proposed law.

Student Casper (InHolland) performed a downright heroic act on Saturday night. On the way back from a barbecue with his hockey team, he witnessed a car ending up in the water along the Oostpoortweg in Delft. This is what local broadcaster Omroep West writes on Monday. The student jumped in and saved the life of the driver.

Casper did not hesitate for a moment, took off his clothes and jumped in, he tells the regional broadcaster. “It happens very quickly. You don’t think about it. I just thought someone should check if the driver is okay, and if there were other people in the car.”

After the student helped the motorist out of the water, the incident took a surprising turn. The driver said he could not contact the police, Casper told Omroep West. After thanking him, he ran away.

The attempts of the police to find the driver were in vain, the broadcaster writes. The police spokesman also let Omroep West know that it is not yet known how the car ended up in the water. Footage of the incident can be found at Regio15.

Student rooms are cheaper and cosier, according to outgoing housing minister Hugo de Jonge. But studios are more profitable. That is why student rooms are being converted into studios, he warns.

Landlords can charge more money for a studio because the students have their own kitchen, shower and toilet in one. The government compensates part of that higher rent with the rent allowance. Investors therefore prefer to build new studios rather than student rooms.

Cosier

This trend is undesirable, and the minster is considering measures to take, as he wrote in response to parliamentary questions. After all, student rooms are much cosier. De Jonge cites several studies showing that students living in rooms are happier than students living at home or independently.

The government has partly encouraged the rise of studios since the rent allowance applies only to studios, not to rooms. Can’t you rectify that, D66 asked the minister.

De Jonge is now thinking of options, but any measure will require a lot of work. A reliable register of student rooms would have to be set up, and a lot of money found. The outgoing minister calculates that if students living in rooms would also receive a rent allowance, the government would lose between €600 and 840 million each year in extra rent allowance.

HOP, Olmo Linthorst

Student organisations and educational institutions have agreed that the allowances for students on representative councils must be raised. For students on central councils, the guideline will be EUR 500 to EUR 1,200 per month. For faculty or decentralised councils, it will be between EUR 250 and EUR 525.

Students on representative councils have a say in the policies of their colleges or universities. They even have the right of consent for important issues. All the parties agree that that level of responsibility requires appropriate remuneration.

In 2018, educational institutions and student organisations already agreed on a standard for the number of hours. Students in central councils spend about eight hours a week on this, they agreed. But for university students, this is more likely to be around 20 hours a week.

Once the hour norm was in place, the House of Representatives also asked for national guidelines for financial compensation for students in councils. Outgoing Minister Dijkgraaf of Education is happy that this is now in place, he writes to the House of Representatives. This makes it likely that universities and universities of applied sciences will get their promised EUR 3 million. This amount will be shared among them.

HOP, Olmo Linthorst

Students, trade unions and youth involved in politics, including those from the VVD and NSC parties, are deeply concerned about the return of the fine for long-term students, an old idea of the first Rutte Cabinet which received the support of the PVV party and is now back on the table.

‘The ‘langstudeerboete‘ (fine for long-term students) is a hard blow for students’, a letter to the new coalition PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB parties reads. The signatories, which include Lijst Bèta and Oras, are asking the parties to reconsider their plan. Dé Partij also supports the content of the letter.

The plan is to more than double tuition fees for long-term students. Students who take more than one year longer to complete their bachelor’s or master’s degree will have to pay an extra EUR 3,000 in tuition fees.

New protests announced

This is bad for students in many ways, say the signatories of the letter. Young people already suffer many mental problems and this fine will put them under even more pressure. Voluntary work, co-determination, top level sports, a board year … will all be compromised. Further education will also become less accessible to students on tight budgets.

The letter was drafted by three national student organisations (JOBmbo, ISO and LSVb) and  LKvV, the umbrella organisation of student associations. The JOVD and JSC have also added their signatures. These are the youth involved in the VVD and NSC political parties, which will soon form a cabinet with PVV and BBB.

The first protest has already been announced. The Landelijke Studentenvakbond (LSVb, the advocacy organisation for students) will stand on Domplein in Utrecht on Saturday 22 June. The LSVb sounds more fierce than the other organisations. Its President, Elisa Weehuizen, says that “There is only one option left: action.”

HOP, Bas Belleman

Dutch scientists in a letter call on Minister Mariëlle Paul to introduce climate education in secondary schools. The letter was sent June 3 and signed by 89 scientists, 20 are from TU Delft. The initiator of the letter, professor of engineering physics Sander Otte also works at TU Delft.

‘While politicians spend more than six months to form a new cabinet, the change in our climate continues mercilessly,’ the scientists write in an attached press release. Because the effects of climate change are particularly affecting young people, according to the scientists, it is especially important to address this in secondary education.

Benefits

In the letter (link in Dutch), the scientists set out the benefits of climate education. For example, it would help young people deal with tensions associated with drastic changes. It also allows them to better arm themselves against disinformation from corporations, politicians and the media, people the letter writers. Finally, it enables young people to ‘contribute to a sustainable and just society’.

Although high schools already currently pay attention to climate and sustainability, there is still much ground to be gained, according to the scientists. “It relies too much on trust in technological solutions and does not sufficiently emphasize what the consequences would be of doing too little or nothing,” said Otte.

What could be the undesirable consequences of your research? That’s the question the Dutch research funding body NWO is going to ask scientists, especially if they want to collaborate with industry.

When submitting a research proposal, scientists already have to explain to NWO what social and scientific impact their research might have. On top of that comes another question: what could the damage be?

Reflect

The answer will weigh into the application. In other words: those who do not reflect well enough on possible undesirable effects will have less chance of receiving a grant. NWO announced this on its website.

NWO will also look more critically at its own collaboration with ‘third parties’. “The public debate surrounding the collaboration of science with companies has caused NWO to re-examine the current policy and take these steps,” is the online statement.

Consideration

NWO wants to create more “awareness” within its own organisation and among researchers. Among the examples: NWO will ‘stop accepting sponsorship funds for, for example, the organisation of events.’

NWO now has a framework for third party cooperation that scientists can use. For example, one question is, “Can there be dual use of research results and what applications are conceivable?” In other words, can you use the results of this research militarily or not? NWO also includes an “exit clause” in collaborations to make it easier to stop in the interim, “based on the consideration that there are by definition risks involved in collaborating with a third party.

HOP, Bas Belleman