Short news

Delft is number 11 on the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) ranking of student room cities. That is down four places from a year earlier. According to the student union, Delft has dropped mainly due to the relatively large price increases for student rooms in Delft. According to the LSVb, the average rent was 504.49 euros, 9.32 percent more than in 2022.

In addition, the union also notes that Delft is still one of the most affordable student cities on the list. Students would need 990 euros per month to make ends meet. By comparison, in Amsterdam it was 1255 euros. By the way, Amsterdam does not turn out to have the highest rents, those are The Hague and Rotterdam with an average of 614 and 618 euros per month.

‘Delft is unique’

The amounts students spend each month are not the only factor the LSVb looked at. The housing policies of municipalities, the tightness on the student room market and the type of rooms for rent (non-self-contained versus studios) are also weighed, for example. All in all, that makes Enschede the best student room city of 2023 according to the LSVb and Eindhoven the least.

According to the LSVb, Delft is unique in the Netherlands in having relatively many student rooms on campus. This would be an advantage in several ways, for example, students would spend less money on transportation to and from university. The proportion of studios and apartments on the Delft housing market is relatively low, the union writes, 25 and 11 percent of the total number of rooms, respectively.

Still, the municipality of Delft has work to do, the union says. The city needs to do something about the tightness. That did not happen in 2023. No student rooms were added, according to the LVSb, while 750 new rooms are said to be needed annually. The Delft housing vision does include the plan to add 3,500 new rooms by 2030, writes the LSVb. It expresses the hope that it will succeed in achieving at least that.

Students who, for example, want to do a board year or who are long-term sick could perhaps be exempted from the penalty for slow students, thinks NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt. In the Parlementary debate on the outline agreement for a new Dutch government, he said he plans to look into this ‘carefully’.

It is one of the big surprises from the outline agreement: the penalty for slow students is coming back. It was introduced years ago and then scrapped after much protest, but that will not stop the coalition of PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB: bachelor’s and master’s students who are delayed more than one year will have to pay an additional three thousand euros in tuition fees starting in academic year 2026-2027.

According to Omtzigt, the penalty is ‘justified in relation to the rest of society, which pays for students’ study places.’ He is, however, open to exceptions, he said. For example, he wants to look ‘carefully’ at whether the penalty should also apply to students who are long-term sick or doing an board year.

The National Student Union LSVb is preparing for actions (in Dutch) against the penalty for slow students. President Elisa Weehuizen calls it ‘a baffling measure that makes making mistakes impossible. This creates enormous pressure’.

HOP, Olmo Linthorst

Let students exercise their fundamental right to protest and do not clear any encampment on campus. This is what fifteen TU Delft academic staff members are asking for in a letter to the Executive Board.

In their letter, the writers, united under the name TU Delft Faculty and Staff, refer to pro-Palestinian student protests in several cities. Whereas in Amsterdam and Utrecht these were ended by the police and led to violence and vandalism, in Groningen, Wageningen, Nijmegen, Maastricht and Eindhoven they have been allowed to go on as long as they remain peaceful and do not obstruct others’ access to the university.

The writers urge the executive board to respond in a similar way. ‘Do everything in your power to uphold our students’ rights and freedoms. A possible encampment must be allowed to continue as long as it remains non-violent.’

They also call on the executive board to respond publicly and substantively to the demands that protesting TU Delft students presented to vice-chancellor Rob Mudde last week.

The Executive Board submitted the so-called ‘Plan for change: social safety TU Delft’ to the Dutch Inspectorate of Education on 15 May. The latter will later give its first reaction.

In its damning report on social safety at TU Delft, the inspectorate demanded that the Executive Board submit a plan of action by mid-May. Earlier, Delta wrote about the renaming of the plan to plan for change.

Right track

According to a spokesperson, the inspection does not care what the plan is called, especially if the Executive Board can substantiate why the current setup was chosen. What matters, according to the spokesperson, is the content. “We will mainly look to see if they are on the right track. The plan must contribute to the end goal: restoring social safety.” The spokesperson expects to be able to say something more in about two weeks about how the inspection will respond to the contents. The inspectors will later provide feedback to the Executive Board and the Minister.

The plan for change is already in the hands of outgoing Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf. The Supervisory Board has submitted it on 15 May. According to the inspection spokesman, this was necessary because the inspection found mismanagement at TU Delft. According to him, the Minister can determine independently of the inspection whether the change plan gives him sufficient confidence that TU Delft’s administration is on the right track. If not, he can intervene by issuing an instruction.

Next year, the inspection will conduct a new investigation at TU Delft. By then, concrete improvements will have to be measurable.

Students from China and Hong Kong studying abroad are being monitored and intimidated by their home country, reports Amnesty International, which also interviewed Chinese students in the Netherlands.

They told Amnesty that they were followed online, both by the regime and by fellow students. Also, one in three students say their families have been approached by Chinese authorities. These include threats of dismissal or revocation of passports or promotions if the students voice criticism.

Self-censorship

Students apply self-censorship online and in conversations with each other to avoid getting into trouble. A Chinese student in the Netherlands tells Amnesty that she was repeatedly threatened by a Chinese classmate. In class, she was told that she should “have more respect for her homeland,” or there would be “consequences.” Earlier, Follow the Money (link in Dutch) wrote about how members of Chinese student associations in the Netherlands keep an eye on whether other members are too critical of their homeland.

The human rights organization interviewed 34 students from China and Hong Kong who are studying or have just finished in the U.S., Canada, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, the U.K. and the Netherlands.

Chinese students have been in the news more often for restrictions on their freedom of speech. For example, Follow the Money wrote how members of Chinese student associations in the Netherlands are monitoring whether other members are not too critical of their home country. Research by the Clingendael Institute this year revealed that some of the doctoral students who receive scholarships from the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) must swear allegiance to the Communist Party in the accompanying contract. Delta revealed in 2023 that CSC PhD students must report to the Chinese Embassy in The Hague several times a year.

Despite such censorship attempts, Chinese students do not always let themselves to be silenced, protests in late 2022 showed. Chinese students in Delft also revolted – in their own way.

“The testimonies we collected for this study clearly show how the governments of China and Hong Kong try to silence students even though they are thousands of miles from home. Many students live in fear because of this,” said Sarah Brooks of Amnesty International in a press release. The organization calls on universities to better protect academic freedom and support Chinese students in the event of “transnational repression. (HOP, OL/ Delta, AdB)

Imagine a world with global internet coverage. You could check your socials on mountains, in deserts or on the middle of the ocean. The internet not only serves smartphones, but also sensors, detectors, cameras, cars and drones – you name it. We’re describing a truly global internet of things (IoT). TU Delft alumnus Dr. Sujay Narayana argues that such a network will only be possible with hundreds or even thousands of mini satellites that communicate directly with devices on Earth.

The KHMW read-more-closed awarded Dr Narayana’s PhD thesis‘ titled ‘Space Internet of Things’ with the bi-annual Kees Schouhamer Immink Prize for technical computer science and telecommunications. The ceremony took place on 11 April 2024 in the Jaarbeurs, Utrecht during the NWO ICT.OPEN event.

Such minisatellites face a number of challenges, all having to do with the limited electrical power. Narayana managed to tackle three of these. He developed:

  • A radio technique that allows low-power, long range communication
  • A low-power space-qualified GPS receiver that saves up to 96 % compared to state-of-the-art GPS receivers
  • An independent energy efficient system called Chirper that checks vital signs of the satellite and transmits these to ground stations independently.

Dr Narayana did his remarkable PhD research at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics (EEMCS) of the TU Delft under supervision of Professor Koen Langendoen and Dr Ranga Rao Venkatesha Prasad.

KHMW prize 2024
Dr Sujay Narayana (midden) ontvangt de KHMW Keees Schouhamer Immink prijs tijdens het ICT.OPEN event op 11 april 2024. (Foto: KHMW)

On Monday 13 May, students and staff of all kinds of universities and universities of applied sciences plan to protest with a ‘walk-out’: at 11 AM, they will stop their work and walk outside. In Delft, a similar protest has been announced by a group calling itself Engineering Solidarity Palestine Delft and that is supported by End Fossil LU TUD.

With the walk-out, the activists want to show their solidarity with students and employees in Amsterdam and Utrecht, who last week demonstrated against the war in Gaza and against whom the police took several violent actions.

Like last week, the protest in Delft will take place on the Freezone next to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science. Then several dozen people attended.

Are you a student travelling by public transport on Wednesday or Thursday? Take note, because Thursday is Ascension Day. Students with a weekend pass (ov-kaart in Dutch, public transport card for students) can then travel for free, while students with a weekly pass only get a discount. The Wednesday before is also different (in Dutch).

Also good to know: with a weekend pass you can travel for free as early as 12 noon on Wednesday (and of course you can also travel all Wednesday with a week pass).

The Friday after Ascension Day is a normal Friday, even though many people take time off and it is also the May holiday. Students can travel that day as in normal weeks: free all day with a weekly pass and free from 12 noon onwards with a weekend pass.

Protect open and free science in Europe. That call is made by the national academies of science, including the Dutch KNAW, ahead of the European elections on Thursday 6 June.

For science, internationalisation is an important issue. After incidents with China and the war in Ukraine, some European member states distrust the international cooperation and exchange of researchers and students.

In the Netherlands, there are plans for stricter screening of foreign students and scientists. A big country like Germany is also working on restrictions. The door is not locked, but as the European Commission describes it: ‘cooperation with China is increasingly nuanced and transactional’. Other countries are also under a magnifying glass.

But international cooperation and exchange of knowledge, researchers and students are precisely a major asset of the European Union, the academies of science of 27 member states write in a joint statement. Scientists and students should be able to do their work “at all times under safe conditions”.

They further believe that countries should invest 3 per cent of their GDP in research and development. In her contribution to a press conference, KNAW president Marileen Dogterom underlined that the Netherlands does not yet reach that agreed 3 per cent.

‘Challenges’ like climate change, biodiversity loss, international migration, food security and the energy transition can only be tackled on a mutual trust-based dialogue between science, politics, civil society organisations and business, Dogterom underlined.

How can you do open and free science in a world with so many military and geopolitical threats? Scientists should not be naive, Dogterom replied, and look carefully at who they are working with. They should also assess whether their research could have a military application. Dogterom: “We have to find the balance, otherwise we are not doing ourselves any favours.”

HOP, Bas Belleman

SURF no longer tweets. The ICT cooperative for education is leaving X and opening its own server for education and research on Mastodon. There, users are less bothered by bots, trolls and spam.

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter and started calling it X, public ‘twexits’, as a farewell to Twitter is sometimes called, have been raining down. Musk would do too little against disinformation and incitement by trolls and fake accounts, his critics think.

SURF, too, has had enough. X no longer aligns with public values such as “humanity, autonomy and justice”, writes the ICT cooperative of Dutch educational institutions in a press release.

Many scientists have already left the platform or are using it less, SURF argues. A spokesperson refers to a recent study by Nature, in which more than half of the scientists surveyed said they tweet less or cancel their accounts.

SURF is switching to the much smaller Mastodon, which is open source and decentralised in nature. On the platform, local administrators themselves largely determine the rules and technology of their own communities.

HOP, Olmo Linthorst