Students value contact with lecturers
Dr Henk van den Broek is resigning his post, after four-and-a-half years, as programme director of the MSc degree in biotechnology. The 58-year-old Van den Broek plans to work fewer hours and, among other things, to focus on coordinating a European master degree programme in food studies. But he will miss the intensive contact with the MSc students
As programme director, Van den Broek counsels students in choosing a major subject, but he also helps after graduation by supplying a reference or by helping them apply for a grant. Van den Broek has noticed that MSc students often are exceptionally talented. Last year, five of his ten students graduated cum laude. This year he estimates that only two will earn that honour
The representation of various nationalities within the biotechnology programme has changed in the past few years, Van den Broek notes. More and more students are coming from within Europe. Last year's group included five college graduates from the Netherlands, and this year France is strongly represented. Despite this trend, the programme director estimates that half of the students still come from developing countries. Students from countries such as the Ivory Coast and Lebanon have a different goal in mind than European MSc students: those from the south usually already have a job in industry or at a research institute and are being sent for a specific purpose. In contrast, European students choose an MSc programme because it complements their education
Education by computer
Within the educational institution Technology and Nutrition there has been some talk of allowing MSc students to study long-distance via the computer. In this way students could take an important part of the programme in their own country. Van den Broek does not support this idea. Students attach great importance to contact with lecturers. They also want a good balance between theory and practical training. Many have also reported that access to information technology is still limited in their country
The possibilities for long-distance education are thus limited, says Van den Broek. A critical look at the course schedule shows that only the first three months could be followed via computer anyway. This would mean that to keep the English and Dutch language programmes parallel, you would have to make the foreign students start here in the middle of the Dutch winter. You couldn't do that to students from the south
Van den Broek would prefer that the WAU focus its attention on finding more grants for MSc students. Each year only a limited number of students who pass the entrance exam can be allowed to attend the university. If you look at how many students graduate cum laude, it is obvious that many extremely talented students are being left behind. High-ranking directors of the WAU, especially, should approach their contacts, Van den Broek believes. Whenever I submit an application to the FAO or the IMF it makes little impact, but a university rector or chair of the board of directors can achieve much more.
MAKS and Biotechnology get former programme directors back
Ir Andre Boon is the new programme director for the MSc programme Management of Agricultural Knowledge Systems (MAKS). Boon was previously director of the programme from 1987 to 1994. In 1994 he left for Mozambique, where he worked with the university of Maputo to set up a new study option for agricultural instruction. Ir Martha Bloemberg of the Department of Communication and Innovation Studies took over for Boon in the interim. Bloemberg will continue to advise the students who began in the previous academic year
The programme of Biotechnology has also regained its former director. Dr Rommert van den Bos was posted for four years with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The geneticist Dr Henk van den Broek served as programme director in the interim
More international than Dutch students want to graduate this year
More international students signed up to graduate in January than Dutch students. 117 international students applied for their degree compared to 104 Dutch students. Last year 115 Dutch students graduated in January compared to 79 international students. The student administration still expects that more Dutch students will graduate than international students, because the foreign students often realize as late as January that the tight schedule prevents them from completing their thesis on time
A new ISP president with a new vision for the future
Wilbert Z. Sadomba is the new president of the international students panel (ISP). The international students panel is the official representing organ of the international students of WAU. In the panel representatives of every MSc course discuss international education and student affairs
The 38-year-old Sadomba worked for UNICEF and the government of Zimbabwe before coming to Wageningen. I was a real grass-roots worker. I went to live in local communities to do research on how we could have more participation of the local population in water management. Western donors pour in a lot of money for water management and sanitation, but participation of the population has often been overlooked. I wrote policy proposals to involve the population in project design, for instance.
I do not have a university background. I finished my A-levels and then did some courses in community work. I think the university accepted me because I was co-author of two books on local government systems in Zimbabwe. I could prove that I had research experience. I really enjoy studying now. Finally I have some time to read without rushing to the next appointment.
ISP did not have a flying start this year. Officially every MSc course should be represented in the meetings, but so far only five or six new students visit the meetings. Sadomba wants to change that. My major task in ISP next year is to carry it to the individual student.
Sadomba was surprised with the warm welcome he got in the administration building. He feels staff and administration of the university are very open to the ISP. Sadomba hopes ISP can play a role in discussions about the internationalisation strategy of WAU. I would like to start a discussion on what an international university really is. You could say that the university is international because it draws students from all over the world, but I think that alone is not enough. The international pretentions should also be reflected in the research of the university. A real international university focuses its attention on global issues. It is important that there is also a place in the university for non-scientific knowledge systems. With ISP I hope we can contribute in discussions to come to a future vision on internationalisation strategy. I would like to organize discussions and maybe a conference about the international university with staff and students.
Sadomba is satisfied with the student facilities Wageningen offers. But there is a lot of room for improvement. The new block system for instance. Students complain that in the new system there is not enough time to study subjects in depth. Students just have the feeling they have to rush things because they will have exams soon