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Comment: 100 years old and still going strong

In this featured comment Rector and Prorector of the University of Copenhagen wish the Student Council a happy birthday, saying that student politicians are dedicated and have a large influence on policy

The Student Council, which is by far the largest student political organisation at UCPH, turns 100 very soon. No doubt the day will be festive – and it is an opportunity to look back on the work of active students throughout a large part of UCPH’s modern history:

From the years before World War 1, where the student body was a small elite, up to the end of professorial power, and all the way to the university reform.

This is quite a story. And admiration is appropriate, because it has not always been easy to seek influence while avoiding to become a part of ‘the system’.

Students have influence

But is student influence history? We do not think so. A university is neither a company nor a basis democracy. We elect internal members of the University Board, but have external members as well. We elect academic councils and the study boards.

We have employed managers (with a duty to manage), and we have councils and boards as well as student demonstrations, when the waves run high. We have an independent University Post to stimulate debate, and there are organised processes to test major initiatives.

Everything but trivial changes are discussed in – if not all, then a lot of – forums for influence. Very few initiatives come out unchanged – fortunately they are often changed for the better. And the politically active students often play a significant role in such changes.

Shared identity in new strategy

On this basis, it seems rather undeserved that the voter turnout is so low at the university election. At the University Board election in 2011, the student turnout was 15 per cent.

An election that determines who is going to represent the positions of 40,000 students should not pass unnoticed, but be an event characterised by debate and high turnouts.

And so to strengthen our shared identity – for example through elections to the organs that influence everyday life at UCPH – is also part of UCPH’s new strategy 2016. Therefore, we will soon be launching an initiative to create more awareness about the university election both in relation to the election of students and staff.

Student politicians have ‘grown’

The Student Council is an example of how hard work and a network of active students in every corner of the University results in influence. Even though far from everything is agreed upon between the management and students, we avoid a lot of potential problems, because the Student Council has a good sense of what is going on at the University.

Let us therefore also use the centennial to thank the many people that locally take turns in study boards and work with curricula, improvement of the study environment and much more.

Moreover, there is no doubt that today’s student politicians have ‘grown’ and as previously described by the University Post, have become noticeably more professional and less anarchistic. There is an awareness of setting the agenda without losing the ability to compromise.

Thanks for hard work

The Student Council has been an active partner in the strategy process leading up to the adoption of 2016. And the ‘lesson survey’ that resulted in an objective of a minimum number of lessons, was based on a suggestion from the students. It goes to show that it is possible to change things by being dedicated.

Student involvement is important – maybe more important then ever, because of the demand for better education and more students. There are many processes and changes to deal with, generated by an outside world moving at a very fast pace.

Congratulations to the Student Council when you reach the big 100 on 19 April, and thank you for your hard work! You are still an important part of UCPH, and you still manage to avoid being absorbed by the ‘system’.

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