Concrete Action After MSc Evaluations
What we were trying to get is an overall impression of how things have been going over the past couple of years. The point of such an evaluation exercise is to identify the general ways in which the university makes changes for the better", explains Marion Engel of the Research and Education Policy department. Graduates from the first group of students to go through the 17 month programme finished their studies in January 1994 and the second group in January 1995. At the end of each year, evaluation days were held. Students got a chance to comment on the study programmes, and the social aspects of life in Wageningen. A plethora of comments and suggestions resulted from the evaluation days and this served as the foundation upon which the university Board has promised to take concrete action wherever possible".
In terms of the social aspects of living in Wageningen, it was obvious from the evaluation that most students wish to bring their family members here during their study. Also prominent in the evaluation was how much time and energy is spent on the complicated process of requesting visas. According to Dean of Foreign Students, Jeanine Hermans, Many students reported problems with the Ministry of Justice and the municipality regarding the complicated and frustrating process of arranging to bring family here or getting the driving licence in order. It is a question of having the correct documents stamped and signed. A recommendation has been made to include an outline of what kinds of documents are necessary, if one plans to bring family here or apply for a drivers licence, in the initial information package. The student can then see to the proper papers before coming to Wageningen."
When asked for examples of other concrete action planned by the university, Marion Engel offers, Students complained that the sports card was sold on a yearly basis. When you have a practical period and must leave for several months, people indicated in the evaluation that they feel they are paying for something that they can't use. So one of the ideas is to change the procedure so that it could be sold on a trimester basis."
Another concrete change being suggested resulted from the MSc students' response to the thesis and the teaching programme as a whole. The information packages and brochures regarding the university led students to believe that their time in Wageningen would be thesis oriented. Marion Engel: Naturally course work forms part of the preparation for the thesis, but as a result of these comments we are considering changing the information given to prospective students so that the impression is not misleading. We also received comments that students were disappointed that it was only after their arrival that they learned of all the possibilities to do field work via other institutions or facilities in Wageningen such as the DLO community. So another recommendation for the future is to include more information about the variety of opportunities available."
Perhaps the most concrete of all suggestions resulted from the overwhelming repetition of students' complaints regarding course evaluation processes. Marion Engel admits, At the level of an overall evaluation it is impossible to make recommendations on specific course content for all the different programmes, and teaching methods, etc., but what we can do is to try and improve how those kinds of issues are handled." Mr. Muggen of the research and Education Policy department outlines the problem, Evaluations take place of most courses in the university but the results only ever go to the education committees and the ROC's (Education Committees, comprised of four staff members and four students for each study). The MSc programmes don't have ROC's and in the past the Programme Directors never saw the evaluations. MSc students commented that they never knew what happened to their evaluations and they felt as though what they wrote would probably never be acted
upon. As a result of these comments, a change has now been proposed whereby the results of individual course evaluations would be sent directly to MSc programme directors, if 10 or more students from that programme follow a specific course. If there are less than 10 students from a programme following a specific course, that Programme Director must request the results, and they will be forwarded. It means that for the first time, the Programme directors will have the facts about how students evaluate specific courses. This will therefore form a basis for taking action on complaints and recommendations."
Wanda Bemelmans, chairwoman of the International Student Panel (ISP), goes even further, At the last ISP meeting, recommendations were made which I passed on in my comments on that report. Students want to know that action will result from their evaluations. You can't force the directors to take action on all the course evaluations, but the most important thing is to then have a MSc student present in the programme committee so that direct involvement is possible and important issues are followed up. Students in the ISP were enthusiastic about adding this recommendation to the evaluation report. Among directors, however, there is hesitation. It means perhaps holding meetings in English and investing a lot of time in introducing the system to students who are only here for a short time. Nevertheless we are convinced that it is an worthwhile improvement".