Wetenschap - 15 mei 1997

International Page

International Page

International Page
Info on thesis topics should receive priority
Compared with other providers of international MSc programmes, the MSc stream at WAU stands out by its scientific character and by its thesis oriented approach. There is not only praise but also a lot of recommendations in the final report of the review of International Education in the Netherlands published recently by the Scientific Advisory Board for International Education
Dolf Boomer, chair of the review committee, highlights two of the most pressing issues: Since in most MSc programmes the thesis research work is part of ongoing research projects of the WAU research institutes or departments, it would be useful to provide candidates already in the pre-admission phase with information concerning the themes of the ongoing research. This may help the students to find out what they exactly want at the earliest possible moment. For a number of MSc programmes at WAU candidates have to write a thesis proposal as part of the admission requirements. However, the vast majority of the students have never been to Wageningen before, let alone know what is going on there. They write a draft proposal in advance but usually drop this initial concept once they have been here a while and then have to write a new one. Time is also a limiting factor, explains Boomer
The second point is related to the students' tight schedule. The committee regards the student facilities in general as good, and the Dean's Office is commended for doing an excellent job. However, according to the committee, access to library and computer facilities need to be better geared to the requirements of a tight 17 months programme. These should be more accessible in the evenings and week-ends. In discussions we had, students complained bitterly about this, relates Boomer. The university is attending to the library problem and access to university buildings - read computer facilities - outside office hours is also under investigation
Discrepancies
Boomer also criticises the lack of an overall policy regarding facilities. It would be desirable to have a university-wide policy on what facilities need to be paid for by students. Such matters should not be left to the discretion of individual departments, since it results in considerable discrepancies, which are difficult to justify and difficult for students to understand. The committee concludes that this can be attributed to the fact that it is unclear with whom responsibility lies for ensuring a suitable study environment. Neither the Educational Institutes nor the central office has taken the initiative in this respect. The committee recommends that the three relevant management levels: Board, Education Institutes and MSc Programme Committees, should coordinate better with each other on all matters concerning programme and budget approval
Merger
An additional recommendation they come up with is that there should be one entity, such as the Standing Committee on Education, responsible for reviewing the programmes, policies and procedures of all the MSc education: this might lead to proper feedback on the results of internal quality control. This is absent now.
Rector Professor Cees Karssen, admits that this has to be improved. The present set-up does not function properly but future improvements should be seen in the light of the future merger which will result in Knowledge Centre Wageningen. More emphasis will then be placed on internationalisation and export of knowledge. This will also generate new opportunities for our education. We have reached an agreement together with the International Agricultural Centre to focus mutual cooperation efforts on jointly advertising our international education programmes. Besides the quality of WAU's MSc programmes coming out well, Karssen feels that an important advantage of the review lies in the fact that the international education is recognized as a legitimate branch of higher education in the Netherlands
Drainage improves nutrient uptake in maize
Digging drains about 40 cm deep leads to deeper rooting and higher yields in maize cultivation on heavy clay soils in Kenya. According to Dalmas Sigunga not only uptake of nitrogen but also the uptake of other nutrients is higher on drained than on undrained plots. Sigunga, who will defend his PhD thesis on Tuesday 20 May, focused his research on the efficiency of the nitrogen components of fertilizer used in maize cropping on Kenyan vertisols. The aim of his research, carried out in Kenya and at the Department of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition at WAU, was to gain a better understanding in nitrogen losses in maize cropping and to develop management options for reducing these losses. Maize is a major food crop in Kenya. Vertisols, heavy clay soils which drain poorly, account for about 2.8 million hectares of agricultural land in Kenya. Vertisols show cracks when conditions are dry and swell when conditions are wet. Farmers use little fertilizer, partly because of the expense but also because cereals do not respond well to fertilizer application on vertisols. Sigunga discovered that nitrogen is primarily lost through the process of denitrification. At high levels of soil moisture content, in the absence of oxides, nitrate is reduced to gaseous nitric oxide, nitrous oxide and dinitrogen. These just evaporate from the soil. Additionally, but of less importance, fertilizer is lost through bypass flow through the cracks. Nitrogen is also lost through ammonia volatilization
Constructing drains 40 cm deep reduces the denitrification process and enables the development of a deeper root system. Incorporating nitrogenous fertilizer materials within the top soil layer reduces nitrogen loss through bypass flow and ammonia volatilisation
Photo exhibition
The minimal availability of water for each individual is often expressed in litres per day per person, but it can also be measured in human lives, says former UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali in the jacket text of the photo book Water, three cultures searching for a balance. A selection of the photographs from this book is currently on show in De Wereld. Three different regions of the world are depicted with water as the central theme. The quality and quantity of water supplies throughout the world is a growing concern. The Tukano Indians in Brazil are confronted with polluted rivers. The activities of gold diggers in the area pollute the rivers with oil and mercury. In Yemen water scarcity is the major concern. By the end of the century the water supplies may be completely exhausted. Some experts even claim that water will be the main cause of conflict and war in the future. In the Middle East bombing a dam could cost more lives than destroying the oil supplies. The North West part of the Netherlands lies partly below sea level and it took centuries to develop the present water management system, which can control ground water levels to within a fraction of an inch. Despite such sophisticated management and the apparent abundance of water, the water supply companies are engaged in a continuous fight against pollution
Photographer Reinout van den Bergh, born in Wageningen, made the pictures for the Information Service for Development Cooperation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The photo exhibition in De Wereld runs till the end of August

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