Protest against the University of Amsterdam’s growth, October 13, 2022.
The “Tragedy of the Commons”, is a socio-economic concept that describes that with every growing individual trying to reap maximum benefit from a given resource, other individuals are not able to use the same resource. In short, this means that ultimately we live in a world of finite resources for infinite people. Much like that, the University’s unprecedented growth trickles down to various effects that result in more harm than benefit. With UvA set to raise the student population to at least 55,000 students by 2025, they do not realize the extent of the damaging effects that come along with it, which affects not only students but professors and the management board alike.
One of the most significant issues that come along with having a large student body in a bustling city like Amsterdam is housing. Most students who come into the city for the first time are unaware of how big of an issue finding housing really is. In fact, the university itself provides limited resources to students who are moving to the city for the first time. Second and third-year students are offered only so much as a webinar and a flyer on finding housing independently in Amsterdam, which usually contains outdated websites and resources whereas only a proportion of incoming students are offered housing through the university’s tie-up with different housing agencies. What they fail to understand is that Amsterdam is not only home to students but is also home to a lot of families and young working professionals who would ultimately be preferred by landlords, as they have a stable income – something that a part-time working student lack.
A student, who is burdened with not just their education and academic stifles in a highly rigorous university has to also deal with finding housing in a crowded private market, making friends, and a stable social life whilst living miles away from home for the first time. All these responsibilities for an 18- or 19-year-old may seem to be too overwhelming at first; and although one is usually able to surpass these hurdles, it is not an easy journey to say the least. In situations like this, it is important for students to have proper guidance and support from the university because that is their prime source of contact. However, with so many students and such few resources, how can one find this support? Are a few study advisors per faculty and 3 to 4 psychologists enough to keep for a student’s well-being?
With a current growing environment of over 41,000 students and 6,000 employees, the lack of balance between students and professors is evident. Housing is evidently a huge issue, and with more students being accepted, the university does not seem to understand the extent of the effect that this crisis has on students. Furthermore, with a lack of support, students are bound to feel helpless and lonely. To take action against the damaging growth of the university, a protest was held by the ASVA student union on the 13th of October 2022, led by the organizer Bor van Zeeland. The main idea surrounding the protest was to address the fact that the university needs to be held accountable and needs to restrict the number of students being admitted to the university currently. According to one of the interviewees, ASVA was flooded with emails by students who were unable to find a home and had to in turn cancel their studies. Along with that, the interviewee mentioned that they expected the university to grow with almost 9,000 students in the next four years. So they realized that this was the right moment to come into action.
The protest concluded with the idea that the internationalization of different courses must be put to an end. Not just that, but the university president, Geert ten Dam also supports this train of thought and agrees with the fact that further internalization of students results in Dutch students not having a fair chance to apply to the different programs offered by the university. What is disappointing about an opinion like such is that at the end of the day international students are being held responsible for something that is out of their control. In a factsheet published by the university in October 2019, the university believes that ‘internationalization’ at the university is not at the cost of Dutch students being admitted, rather the growth of international students is offset by a declining interest among Dutch students. It also goes on to mention that the university believes in ‘maintaining the right balance in the composition of an international classroom’. Then how is it that 4 years later, the tables have turned and international students are made to bear the brunt of a poor administrative decision made by the university?
Such jarring opinions create a sense of negative emotions amongst international students who may feel like they do not belong at the university. Despite paying higher financial compensation at the university, international students seem to face most of the brunt of this disadvantageous growth examples ranging from advertisements by landlords such as ‘no internationals or students’ to not being allowed a part-time job without an eligible work permit. It is unfair that the university overlooks the problems that international students are facing and instead continues to grow to help establish the notion of a diverse student body, only for the management to blame international students.
And this is just the start of a student’s perspective on the damaging growth at UvA…