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Regeringspartijen VVD en CDA willen de basisbeurs voor alle studenten afschaffen. PvdA en D66 ook, al zien ze het liefst dat de opbrengst volledig ten goede komt aan het onderwijs.

Maandag maakte het demissionaire kabinet-Rutte de maatregelen bekend die het samen met gedoogpartner PVV bedacht had om het begrotingstekort onder de drie procent te krijgen. Eén ervan was de invoering in 2014 van een sociaal leenstelsel voor bachelorstudenten in combinatie met de ‘evenredige afschaffing van de langstudeerboete’ van drieduizend euro. Nieuwe studenten die geen basisbeurs meer ontvangen, kunnen dan geen boete meer krijgen.

Het geld dat hiermee netto bespaard wordt – op de lange termijn 297 miljoen euro per jaar – wordt in de voorstellen van VVD en CDA voor de helft gebruikt als investering in het onderwijs. Met de andere helft wordt het begrotingstekort verkleind.
PvdA-kamerlid Tanja Jadnanansing laat desgevraagd weten dat haar partij nog altijd voorstander is van de invoering van een leenstelsel voor alle studenten. “Als het maar wel echt sociaal is. De aanvullende beurs voor studenten met minder draagkrachtige ouders moet een gift blijven en ook studenten met weigerachtige of onvindbare ouders moeten ervoor in aanmerking komen.”

Een andere harde voorwaarde is dat de langstudeerboete verdwijnt. De vraag of een deel van de opbrengst van het leenstelsel gebruikt kan worden om het begrotingstekort terug te dringen is wat Jadnanansing betreft prematuur. “Op dat soort vragen beraden we ons nog.”

Ook D66 is voorstander van een leenstelsel, maar houdt vast aan de eis dat de opbrengst volledig ten goede moet komen aan het onderwijs. “Nog niet zo lang geleden zeiden we ‘hoger’ onderwijs”, erkent Kamerlid Boris van der Ham, “maar gezien de economische tegenwind hebben we dat verbreed. Het is tenslotte ook belangrijk dat studenten een goede vooropleiding hebben.”

Van der Ham juicht het toe dat VVD en CDA het leenstelsel nu ook willen invoeren in de bachelorfase en de langstudeerboete willen afschaffen. “Daardoor is er nu inderdaad meer uitzicht op samenwerking. Maar onze inzet blijft gelijk.”

Het wetsvoorstel ‘Studeren is investeren’, waarin staatssecretaris Zijlstra de basisbeurs voor masterstudenten per september afschaft, kan wat D66 betreft nog wel behandeld worden. “Wij hebben het niet controversieel verklaard. Wel vinden we dat masterstudenten gelijk behandeld moeten worden; wie een twee- of driejarige master volgt, hoeft wat ons betreft maar één jaar basisbeurs in te leveren”, aldus Van der Ham. 

Mark Uitendaal (28) graduated from the Aerospace Engineering faculty in July 2009, with the Stratos I rocket as his MSc graduation project. He went on to work as a systems engineer and project manager for the ESA’s Rexus/Bexus (Rocket and Balloon Experiments for University Students) campaign, at the SSC (Swedish Space Corporation) in Kiruna, Sweden. He also co-founded a rocketry company called T-Minus Engineering, with several fellow Dare (Delft Aerospace Rocket Engineering) members. 

For your graduation project, you set a new altitude record for European experimental rocketry. That’s pretty hard to beat. How are you managing to do it?“Indeed, that’s what I’m trying to do now: to top Stratos I. It was an awesome project, but when I’m 67, I don’t want to look back at it as the highlight of my career, therefore I have to constantly set new goals.” 

And your first 'new goal' after the Stratos was the Stratos II.“I did help set up the Stratos II project, originally with the thought of staying on at the TU as a staff member. Back then there was an idea to set up a rocketry master and to have a single person responsible for all of the rocketry projects, to be a sort of interloper between TU Delft with its more theoretical approach, and Dare, which focuses mainly on practical aspects. In the end, though, the idea didn’t go through, so I applied for the position of systems engineer at Esrange, and luckily was hired.” 

What do you do at Esrange now? “As the Rexus/Bexus systems engineer, I integrate the student payloads made all over Europe into the gondola (Bexus), or the service module (Rexus), to make sure everything fits correctly. As the project manager, my job is to do anything to get the project going: planning, reviewing, keeping the project groups on track and on schedule - everything to have a successful launch campaign in the end.” 

You’re also a member of the launch crew? “Yes, and that’s the most awesome part about my job! During a rocket launch, you’re on the launch pad, guiding the payload scientist who of course wants to do all sorts of stuff with the payload while there’s like a metric ton of propellant beneath it, which you don’t want to ignite when you’re around! So basically it’s all about safety; you really have to visualize everything that can go wrong and prevent it from happening.  The last time with the Rexus, I was in the bunker and doing radio traffic and I actually got to push ‘the big red button’! That was really nice. It gives an adrenalin rush, when you’re ramping up towards the launch.” 

So would you want to be the launch officer in the future? “No. I wanted to be an engineer because I love being part of the creative process, and as exciting as the job can be, a launch officer’s work doesn’t involve a whole lot of creativity. I’m quite happy where I am now.”

What’s the most difficult part about your work? “It’s difficult being away from my girlfriend and social life. My job does allow me to travel quite a bit and often I end up in Holland, and besides that I work a 67% contract: two months in Kiruna and one month free in the Netherlands, but it’s still doesn’t compare with the stability I would’ve had I been working in Holland.” 

What about climate? “It’s really cold, but I must admit that I really like that - I’m that type of guy. Thanks to the cold, you can ski well into the spring months, and there’s a free ski slope just 10 minutes walking from my house. The polar nights, however, are more difficult to endure, but you do get used to them eventually.”

Besides skiing, what do you do in your free time? “I have a mountain bike which I use in the summer. I’m also planning to get my paraglider up there, to fly a bit. I started paragliding about six years ago when I took a course in the Alps, and have been addicted ever since. Paragliding compliments rocketry nicely: in rocketry you design something that flies but don’t experience the flight yourself, while in paragliding you don’t have the creative aspect of design, but you experience flight.”

You’ve recently started a new company, can you tell us about it?“T-minus will be a rocketry company. Quite a lot of knowledge and experience in rocket design, production, and operation was accumulated from Stratos I and similar projects. So currently in Dare we have the largest expertise in sounding rockets within Europe, but no means of using that expertise in Holland. I, for example, have to travel 2000km North to be able to work with rockets, so why can’t I do the same here?”  

What projects do you have in mind? “The first project will likely be meteo-rockets (boosted dart systesms), because we see a market for them. Besides that, sounding rockets, propulsion systems, launcher systems, and a consultancy are all future possibilities.”

What’s the most difficult part of starting a new company?“Because we’re all technologically-oriented people, things like financial matters, taxes, administration, etc., are the challenging parts. Also, as with everything in the space industry, everything takes a longer time than expected, so it takes a while for the contract negotiations to go through.”

What is your ultimate ambition in life? “I don’t really have that; I prefer to set small goals and achieve them one at a time. My next big goal is to launch a T-Minus meteo-rocket in Andoya (Norwegian rocket range) 2-3 years from now, and after that as long as I keep launching rockets and flying my paraglider, I’ll be happy with my life.”

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