Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

AMFI to implement findings and recommendations of investigation

Amsterdam Fashion Institute intensifies efforts to improve social safety

30 Jun 2021 13:55 | Communication

The dean of the Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries (FDMCI) of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences will implement the findings and recommendations for improving social safety at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) presented by the independent investigation agency Bezemer & Schubad (B&S).

The final report is highly critical: AMFI is not a safe learning and working environment for all students and staff. Students have been treated in unacceptable ways by some of the teachers who were supposed to educate them, and some students report that this still affects them to this day.

Interviews with (former) students and staff

As part of its perception study, the investigation agency spoke with 109 people who had signed up for the study, consisting of 39 (former) students and 70 employees of AMFI. 41 people submitted written statements or remarks, with 19 people supplementing their interview and 22 solely providing their input in writing.

According to the (former) students interviewed, the main sources of the absence of social safety include the extremely high workload, the treatment by some teachers with the intention of destroying the students' self-esteem and self-confidence, intimidation by teachers and the resulting competition between students. It was also expressed that student complaints were not taken seriously enough. The (former) students especially pointed out the lack of social safety in the Design Department and parts of the Branding Department. Most of the negative experiences date from the past, but the interviews show that they still occur today. In the report, students propose several concrete recommendations for improvement.

Employees of AMFI also experience an excessively high workload. In addition, they report struggling with AMFI’s lack of direction, vision and strategy. They also mention a divided team of lecturers. In the report, employees propose several concrete suggestions for improvement and indicate their willingness to work towards this.

Culture change

The investigation team notes that in the past two years, under the leadership of the new director, changes have been initiated that are perceived as positive by many students and staff. In recent years, the first-year curriculum has been changed, resulting in a lower workload for students, more personal supervision and increased focus on the students’ role in the fashion world of the future. Adjustments to the second year are currently in the works. The growing positive figures of the student satisfaction survey (NSE 2021), especially on the component 'supervision & contact', are perhaps a first indication that the changes are heading in the right direction. The investigation by Bezemer & Schubad shows that a culture change is urgently needed. In the coming weeks, the director of AMFI will work with the dean of the faculty to identify the steps needed to implement the necessary changes. AMFI will seek outside counsel and support should this become necessary.

Response from Frank Kresin, Dean of FDMCI and initiator of the investigation

‘The report confirms that social safety is insufficiently safeguarded at AMFI. Students have been treated unacceptably by teachers who were there to educate and supervise them. This affects me deeply and can never happen again; I offer them my sincere apologies on behalf of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that employees have too little guidance and that the methods for handling complaints in a timely manner have not worked sufficiently. As a result, the signals highlighted in the Bezemer & Schubad report failed to reach me. That is something I deeply regret, and it has to change. The report gives us solid guidelines to do everything in our power to improve and safeguard social safety for everyone at AMFI. We are implementing the report's findings and recommendations. In the coming weeks, we will determine what steps and measures, in addition to the changes already initiated, are necessary to achieve this. We are working together with other art and fashion institutes in the Netherlands that have drawn up an outline policy document on social safety. In this way, the sector itself is taking the lead in working on social safety. We will also share the insights from this report with them.’

Response from Dirk Reynders, Director of AMFI

‘The report confirms the distressing accounts that have reached us through (former) students in recent months. I apologise for this, and it saddens me greatly yet simultaneously makes me determined to implement changes with great urgency. For as long as it is my responsibility, it will never happen again that students cannot be themselves and are degraded. Employees have also not found AMFI to be a safe working environment. We structurally follow up on all recommendations we receive in that regard. The management team also offered too little direction, vision and strategy. I am very concerned about this and heed the call for more, and different, leadership from both myself and the MT. Both staff and students contributed a large number of suggestions to the investigation, which we are grateful for and will put to use. We are facing a major change, and it can only take place if every employee at AMFI backs the recommendations from the investigation and is 100% committed to making the culture change happen. We have taken the first steps to reduce the student workload. We will immediately start implementing the recommendations from the report.’

Distress

Any student with a negative experience at AMFI is one too many, whether it happened in the past or recently. Students who have had distressing experiences can contact the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, via AMFI2021@hva.nl.

Background information

In the spring of 2021, AMFI made the news in connection with Martijn N., the former director of MOAM who was accused of sexual misconduct. In the comment section of AMFI's response to the publication about Martijn N., students and former students alike recounted how they had not felt safe during their time at AMFI. In light of the responses to this post, the dean of the faculty that includes AMFI called for an independent investigation into social safety at AMFI and the methods to safeguard it. As part of the investigation, (former) students and staff were asked to share their experiences with the independent agency Bezemer & Schubad.

AMFI

There are a total of about 1,400 students studying at AMFI. Approximately 430 students are admitted each year. The dropout rate in the first year is 14%. This is lower than the average at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA). The academic success rate, which refers to the percentage of students completing the main phase of the programme within 4 years, is 70% at AMFI. Every university of applied sciences participates in the national student satisfaction survey, also called the NSE. AMFI scores a 3.9 on a scale of 1-5. This is slightly higher than the national average (3.8). The category 'involvement and contact' is particularly well-rated.