By Annerijn Vink
Hopefully, by now the UCSRN is a familiar word to you. The University College Student Representatives Netherlands consists of two students from each Dutch University College: one member from its non-academic association, and one member from its academic council. AAO Social Sciences Linda Barry represents the academic side of UCU. “At the moment, about half of the time I put in ASC is invested in the UCSRN,” Linda says.Since so much time is devoted to it, what are the benefits of UCSRN to ASC?
Linda explains the UCSRN has two main tasks. First, UCSRN wants to bring together University College students in the Netherlands. “Each UC is different, but we share the Liberal Arts and Sciences philosophy,” Linda says. Second, the UCSRN provides an opportunity for all UCs to represent themselves towards the outside world, for example by promoting the UCs to prospective students.
There are several UCs in which the association and the council are part of the same body. The UCSRN tries to make a distinction between academics and non-academics. “At the same time, it is very much in the nature of UCs to integrate the two with each other, which is why we have one big UCSRN” Linda remarks. Still, the two main tasks don’t directly seem to contribute to UCU adacemics.
For ASC, there are two relevant aspects of the UCSRN. If we want to represent University Colleges towards bigger bodies, for example when government introduces higher education reforms, we need to unite in order to be heard. Especially because UCs have a different structure and different requirements than other bachelor programme’s in the Netherlands, representing our interests through an overarching body is crucial.
What is also very important is the constant sharing of information amongst members of the UCSRN. “Whenever we encounter a problem, we ask the other UCs whether they also experienced this and how they dealt with it,” Linda says. “For example, when ASIC changed into ASC two years ago, we took inspiration from AAC, the academic council of Roosevelt Academy in Middelburg.” She admits that this is not very visible for students. However, ASC constantly tries to improve academic matters, and “sharing information, knowledge and experiences helps us take better decisions, from which students benefit in the end,” Linda says.
Even though few amongst us are aware of this, the UCSRN promises to be a useful body for communication purposes. In 2012, it is an illusion that we can do everything on our own. Especially association board members and members of the councils profit from UC representation both on macro and micro-level, and the exchange of information. This is not only a justification of Linda’s time investment in an unbeknown student body. Moreover, it is an important step in the maturation of Liberal Arts and Science education in the Netherlands.