Leiden University students fight against classroom surveillance cameras

Students of Leiden University did not think they would be dealing with an Orwellian reality, but protests from the last few days say otherwise. 

Leiden University installed nearly 400 smart cameras in classrooms and lecture halls during the lockdown in 2020 without telling students and staff, Omroep West reports

I spy with my little eye 👁

You may be thinking, what’s so bad about them? These cameras were installed to count students in lecture halls but can do much more, including recognising students by gender and whether they’re wearing a mask or not.

As you can imagine, this did not go down well with students and staff, sparking protests in Leiden and the Wijnhaven campus in The Hague. 

The board of Leiden University has since temporarily turned off the cameras, but students are suspicious of what “temporary” means. 

Fears of surveillance 😟

Despite the reassurances that the cameras are safe and pose no privacy or security threats, students are concerned that the university will reactivate the cameras once unrest has subsided. 

Given what these cameras can do, students are more than dissatisfied that the university hasn’t been transparent about their instalment. What’s more, it seems the institution never intended to be — at least, not until students found out about them. 

Part of a wider problem

To add to this unrest, cameras are only the tip of the iceberg. Students feel as though their input is hardly taken into account by the university council. For example, students have been pointing to a deterioration in teaching quality, out-of-date facilities, and the controversial disbandment of a sexual harassment support group. 

Professor of privacy at Nijmegen University, Dr Bart Jacobs, has advised the removal of the cameras — the cameras have created a precedent of mistrust and unequal power relations among students and the board. 

An investigation into the safety of the cameras has been opened and Leiden University intends to keep the cameras off until the results of the investigation emerge. But until then, the cameras may be here to stay. 

What do you think about using smart cameras in universities? Tell us your thoughts below!👇

Feature Image: DutchReview/Canva

Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Third culture kid Katrien has been working as a writer and editor at DutchReview for over two years, originally moving to the Netherlands as a tween. Equipped with a Bachelor’s in communication and media and a Master’s in political communication, she’s here to stay for her passion for writing, whether it’s current Dutch affairs, the energy market, or universities. Just like the Dutch, Katrien lives by her agenda and enjoys the occasional frietje met mayo — she just wishes she could grow tall, too.


  1. The cameras can detect cheating. The cameras can detect students stealing. The cameras can detect perpetrators of assault.

    Only cheats, thieves and rapists would oppose these safety cameras.

  2. I hate this idea. But this is where we are going with the so-called covid measures. It us not about publuc health or safety but about total control. And the cameras are just a small step. Unfortunately I also believe that the over compliment population has no futs to stand up against it and we are going to be swalled in the process. And the camera… Well, the cameras will be turned in “to protect” the public.


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