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Opinion

Use your vote - also at your university

The boards of studies and the academic councils are important democratic bodies at the University of Copenhagen. In this featured column, the chairman of the Student Council Amanda Büchert calls on all students to vote - or even stand for election on the Board of Studies of their own department.

In Denmark, we live in a representative democracy. This means that we as citizens have the right to choose those who represent us when decisions are made on our behalf. It is important that we uphold this right, and that we stand firm on, and can vouch for the decisions that have been made. This is our responsibility as democratic citizens.

The democratic tradition is a proud tradition. This is something that you can see in our institutions, that have a strong focus on ensuring involvement on all the different institutional layers. This also applies to universities, where students and employees have the right to be heard, so that management does not exercise a monopoly on the decisions that affect us all.

The university’s democracy consists in once a year holding a university election where students and employees must choose who it is that represents them and that faces management on the different levels of the system.

The boards of studies have democratic power

At department level, elections are for representatives on the boards of studies. Here they work with quality assurance and development of teaching activities, including the preparation of curricula, organisation of examinations, and the processing of credit transfer and exemption applications.

We need therefore to exploit the power that this body provides us, and to emphasise towards our superiors why it is important that students have real influence on their field of study

Amanda Büchert, Chairman of the Student Council

The boards of studies are an extremely important body, as this is the last place at the university where we still have decision-making authority, i.e. real democratic power. This decision-making authority was at stake this spring, when the Danish government’s Committee for Better University education programmes proposed abolishing it. After protests and massive pressure from universities, and particularly from students, the proposal was rejected, and the boards of studies have been allowed to retain their decision-making power.

We need therefore to exploit the power that this body provides us and emphasise towards our superiors, why it is important that students have real influence on their field of study

We must show them that is it not enough with decision-making authority, and that democratic participation should be extended, so we can create even more quality at the universities. We are the users, and we need to be treated as the users. We know what it takes to create a good education programmes, and this knowledge should be used!

Strategies for research and education

At the faculty level, there are elections to the academic councils. The academic councils work on research, education and knowledge exchange strategies, compose academic committees that are to evaluate applicants for academic positions, confer PhDs and doctorates, and comment on academic matters that are significant to the activities of the faculty.

The academic councils are advisory bodies and have therefore, as opposed to the boards of studies, no decision-making powers. But this does not mean that all work is in vain. On the contrary, the students who sit on these are heard. And in this way, you can help influence what direction the faculty is moving.

Last but not least, at the university level, two student representatives are to be elected to the University Board, the University of Copenhagen’s highest authority. The Board takes care of university interests as an educational and research institution, by laying down guidelines, for example, for the organisation and its long-term activities and development.

The Board’s responsibilities include: The university conducting research and offering research-based degree programmes at the highest academic level; the university’s resources being allocated optimally; and determining the contract for the strategic framework with the Minister for Research and Education.

It is important that the student representatives that are present here, at the top level of the organisation, can make sure that our interests as a student will be taken into account. We need to be heard, and remembered, all the way up through the system, and student representation on all levels plays an indispensable role in shaping our university.

You can stand for election to the Board of Studies

University elections take place during the last week of November, and when this happens, it is important that you use your democratic right and vote – no matter who it is that you vote for.
But before it is time for this, there is something else you have to decide, namely who it is that should stand for election to the boards of studies and academic councils. Who can stand for election? YOU can.

We hope that many of you will help represent your fellow students, because it is an incredibly important and exciting work

Amanda Büchert, Chairman of the Student Council

The Student Council fields its representatives through different study programmes’ and faculty councils, and if you are interested in being a part of the university’s democratic bodies, this is where you should go. Both to get more further information, but also if you already know that you would like to stand for election.

Do you still not feel like you are quite prepared to sit opposite management and staff and discuss curricula? Don’t worry, we at the Student Council plan to qualify and prepare anyone who is interested in university elections. Here you get a good introduction to what the university election is all about, and how you as a student can best use your power.

We hope that many of you will help represent your fellow students, because it is an incredibly important and exciting piece of work And we hope that you will all make the most of your democratic rights and show university’s management that we students have a voice that they cannot overhear.

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