Interview with Academy Council: How do you spend 1 million euro? (Well, a little bit less)

Published on

Jan Wienowiecki and Audrey Helwes comment on the success of the Academy Council

‘We are the eyes and ears of students and teachers!’ enthuses Jan Wienowiecki, a student representative of the Academy Council. Between 13 and 20 December, elections will be held for the council and you as student can cast your vote. But what does the council do exactly and is it successful? Chairperson Audrey Helwes: ‘We help improve the school through co-creation with the directorate.’

‘Of course everyone remembers the start of the Corona pandemic and the first lockdown,’ says Jan Wienowiecki, a fourth-year Theatre Directing student, who has represented the Academy for Theatre and Dance in the Academy Council  for three years. ‘The rules changed every day. Suddenly education was obliged to go online. Dancers had to devise ways of keeping fit in their cramped accommodation. Students suffered stress and felt insecure. We the Academy Council set up a taskforce to bolster communication between students and the directorate.’ With concrete results, says Jan in retrospect. ‘On our advice, former interim director Marjo van Schaik, recorded video bulletins in which she tried  to answer the many questions being raised, thereby helping to clarify the situation for students.’

Eyes and ears
It’s just one example of how you as a student representative of the Academy Council can commit to making the school function better. Officially five students and five staff members from different  study programmes sit on the council. They meet ten times a year, five meetings of which include the directorate. The council provides the directorate with requested and unsolicited policy advice about the whole school; i.e. all eighteen study programmes. Jan: ‘You function as the eyes and ears of your fellow students. You communicate with the directorate about the concerns of students and staff members. That’s why this work is so valuable and inspiring!’

More influence together
The Academy Council chairperson, teacher Audrey Helwes, also avidly emphasizes the value of the council: ‘During the Corona period I became aware that individual students were mailing the director their personal views or ideas. Such mails have no official status however and it is uncertain if they will be answered. It’s better to mail the Academy Council or talk to one of its representatives. As a group the council can instigate real change. Together you have more influence.’

In addition to the council there are three Study Programme Committees (OC’s – Opleidingcommissies) in which students and teachers can make their vote count, explains Audrey: a committee for theatre study programmes, dance  study programmes and master study programmes. ‘These OC’s concern themselves with the contents of the curricula; the Academy Council is involved with policy regarding the whole academy. The committees and the council also meet to discuss what’s going on.’

Audrey has been chairperson for three years. What does she consider a major success? ‘When I first joined the council in 2018, quality improvement funds were made available by the Ministry of Education; a direct result of the basic student grant being replaced by a student loan scheme. The idea was to improve the quality of education with the money provided. The ATD received approximately 5,6 million euro to invest in education over the course of seven years.’

Audrey explains how legislation dictates that co-determination has a say in the spending of the allotted funds. ‘We wanted to make better use of that right. As representatives of the work floor, we aim to co-create with the management.’

An own budget of one hundred thousand euro
Audrey states that according to the council, co-creation means three things:   ‘One: having a say in how the money is spent. Two: evaluating plans together. And three: having an own budget to initiate projects for students and staff. Everyone, including the management, was very pleased that consensus was reached regarding these three points.’

With its own budget of one hundred thousand euro, the Academy Council now  finances projects that directly benefit students and staff. ‘Currently we are conducting an investigation into online auditions: what works and what doesn’t?’

New online platform for students
The council is also financing a major project that foresees in developing a new online platform, specially for academy students. Jan is strongly committed to realising this endeavour: ‘It will be a place where students can find information fast, build up their portfolio, extend their network and communicate.’ He is convinced there is a real need for such a platform among students: ‘At the moment each study programme uses a different platform - Teams, WhatsApp, Intranet, SharePoint and Kaltura for registrations and documentaries. Many of these are difficult to access or students are unaware of what’s on offer. There is a real need for a central, modern and user-friendly platform.’

Vote! Vote! Vote!
It should be clear by now: the Academy Council is not a dull, debating club but a place where students and teachers are passionately committed to improving the school, together with the directorate. Audrey: ‘So, don’t forget to cast your vote for the Academy Council between 13 and 20 December! Change doesn’t occur overnight but we can certainly influence proceedings.’ How do you vote? Jan: ‘Check your school mail for your ballot!’


All students of the Academy of Theatre and Dance will shortly receive a mail with their ballot allowing them to cast their vote between 13 December 13.00 hrs and 20 December 13.00 hrs.

Do you want to know more about co-determination at the ATD?
See: Participation Councils and Programme Commitees on Myahk (log in with your account).

text and interview: Petra Boers

Audrey Helwes, photo: Rosa van Goudoever

Jan Winowiecki, photo: David Krooshof