News - November 12, 2015

Column: Honours programme

Stijn van Gils

To all the students who have been turned down for the Honours Programme.

So that’s how it goes in Academia. Our whole system depends on selection and self-promotion. Applying for grants, trying to get published in high-impact journals: the academic life is a constant battle with victories and defeats. And hey, you’ve just lost your first battle.

Of course you will get countless other chances to excel. But – without wanting to discourage you – do you know how these things work in Academia? The committees which assess research proposals are almost overwhelmed by the flood of excellent proposals they get. So the first thing they look at is which competitors have already received a grant. Because they have already proved themselves. In other words: success breeds success, and the same goes for failure. So there you’ll be with your ordinary degree without honours. A piece of paper whose value – thanks to all the attention the Dutch press has paid recently to bare pass grades given out of pity – is in doubt from the start.

But there is hope. I am offering an exclusive opportunity to all rejected honours students to apply for my personal Excellence Honours Plus Programme. Needless to say, my budget is minimal and my status laughable. But there are so many Honours Programmes in the Netherlands by now that employers cannot possibly keep track of what they all mean.

You can apply by sending me a letter of motivation and a copy of your rejection letter. I will provide successful candidates with an induction into the day-to-day reality of life as a scientist. I’ve got an awful lot of jars that need washing up.

Stijn van Gils (28) is doing doctoral research on ecosystem services in agriculture. Every month he describes his struggles with the scientific system.