The majority of students and lecturers are not pleased about WUR’s evening classes. This was revealed by the evaluation of the evening classes pilot. Three in four students (76 percent) and two in three lecturers (66 percent) have a negative approach toward evening classes.
Photo: Guy Ackermans
Between September and January, well over 2500 students and more than 50 lecturers participated in a trial with classes after six o’clock in the evening. Afterwards, they were sent an online questionnaire by research agency Panteia. 1409 students and 43 lecturers completed this questionnaire. The agency also held in-depth interviews with students and lecturers.
In the evaluation, students and lecturers write that the long days due to the classes in the evening caused additional stress. The evening classes also prevented them from engaging in additional activities. Students were unable to practice sports, study and relax. Lecturers were in a fix with practicing team sports, their families and regular fixed appointments. International students were less negative about the evening classes than their Dutch counterparts: 22 percent were not inconvenienced, while only 6 percent of the Dutch students had nothing against it.
As the evening classes regularly clashed with other commitments, attendance during the evening classes was lower than during day classes, according to most. A quarter of the students missed at least four classes. Almost 80 percent claimed that when they did make it, they were not able to concentrate as well as during the day; an image that was confirmed by the lecturers. However, it seems this did not lower the results of exams: the average of the grades during the pilot barely differed from the grades in the three previous years.
Students and lecturers wonder whether there is truly a lack of capacity, as they see many empty lecture halls during daytime. They would rather see the university improve the supervision of the actual use of reserved halls instead of having evening classes. If the university would decide to introduce the evening classes despite this, they would like it to be at a maximum frequency of once a week, preferably on Tuesdays. The university should also schedule no more than two half-days per day, not schedule any morning classes the day after evening classes, and record evening classes, so they can be reviewed on WUR-TV afterwards.
Panteia also asked the support services (such as IT) and student association about their experiences with evening classes. These groups also show little support for evening classes. They would rather see other measures being taken to lead to a solution of the capacity problem in education.
The pilot was meant to gain experience in holding evening classes that the Executive Board could use in further decision-making. Simon Vink, the spokes person of the Executive Board, told us that the board will engage in an open dialogue about the results with the participational councils. ‘These results do not mean that the evening classes are cancelled. It is not only a question of support; we also have the obligation to provide education, and there is not much space not to do it. It is clear that there are plenty of aspects to improve concerning the way the evening classes are planned. We will engage in conversation with the participational councils on this topic.’