In the spring I sometimes grow sunflowers in a greenhouse. When the scrawny little seedlings have to go into my border, it’s a tough transition. They are not used to the wind, the cold and the slugs, so a few of them do not survive that transition. With a kebab skewer and a bit of loving care I can usually coax most of them through it.
When I wanted to graduate in Utrecht I went around the staff begging them on my knees to supervise my thesis. I had to come up with a plan and explain how I was going to ensure that I wouldn’t need too much supervision. Alongside my job at WUR I am currently doing a course in the US and the rules are strict there too. Handed in a report too late? Tough. There are no resits and if you are too late registering for a course, well, try again next year.
I think we take very good care of our students here in Wageningen. But I’m also afraid we might be a bit too gentle with them out of fear of not living up to their high expectations. (Just imagine if we weren’t top of the league in the next National Student Survey!)
As with my sunflower seedlings, there is such a thing as an overprotective upbringing. After you graduate there won’t be anything like a sample report, a mock exam or a guide to practicals. We are training students here to go out into the big wide world, and I wonder if we are doing them no favours by being so kind. The more we pamper them, the tougher the world of work will be. Of course, most of them will survive, with a bit of support. But shouldn’t we aim to give them a stronger basis to start with?
Guido Camps (34) is a vet and a postdoc at the Human Nutrition department. He enjoys baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.