Heleen (24) is Minister of Foreign Affairs
She is still working towards her bachelor's degree in European Studies at UM, but as of this week she is also Minister of Foreign Affairs—in the first Dutch Student Cabinet, that is. Heleen van der Velden (age 24) wants, together with her thirteen fellow ministers, to bring scientific knowledge to The Hague. This is so that plans for the future can be made sustainably and with a horizon beyond four years.
Heleen van der Velden chose the European Studies programme because she is interested in politics and how policies are made and what effects they have in practice. The idea of one European education area, in which leaders of the future are prepared to solve cross-border problems, really appealed to her. “I was approached by UM because I’m a student ambassador for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Taking part in this seemed like an amazing opportunity.”
Vision for the future
In the pamphlet on the Student Cabinet website (in Dutch) , she writes: ‘By offering greater support for European university alliances, Dutch students can more easily study abroad as part of their degree programme and gain access to knowledge that is not yet available in the Netherlands. This offers individual students the chance to build a strong and unique CV, from which we can all benefit in the future.’ Heleen drafted the pamphlet together with UM staff members, leaving plenty of room for her own vision: “For me, for example, the impact of cultural exchange and learning other languages is an important component because I really think it adds something to the development of both the student and the education. I fully support this vision, which I think is the future.”
Engaging with the real cabinet
On Monday 29 March, the ‘coalition agreement’ of the Student Cabinet was given to outgoing Minister Van Engelshoven and shared with all party leaders with a seat in parliament. The next day, Heleen visited UM President Martin Paul to do the same. “I’m curious what he thinks of it, as the UM figurehead for internationalisation.” Van der Velden hopes that the newly formed cabinet will be open to input from the Student Cabinet. “Though we won’t be able to arrange one European education area from the Netherlands alone, we can already take steps in the Netherlands, for example, to facilitate exchanges between universities.” At the European level, there needs to be a harmonisation of diploma levels, semester periods and also study costs to get us closer to ‘one European education area’. So, there is plenty of work to be done!
Also read the news article on the launch of the Student Cabinet on our website.
Photo of the Student Cabinet.