We hope to see you back as a PhD student
Most of the MSc students who graduated this month have already returned home, but more than thirty applied for a sandwich grant to do PhD research partly in Wageningen. Finding alternative funding sources so that international students can extend their stay in Wageningen is difficult. It's like the soccer players. You can only play in Holland if you add something extra to the team
Most of the students who received their Masters degree on January 23 return to their home countries as soon as possible. Dean Jeanine Hermans doesn't have the exact figures available but she knows that for most of the students the money runs out at the end of January. Sometimes a student can stretch his or her stay in Holland by spending a few days with friends
Only a few have the luxury of a couple of months more money which gives them the opportunity, if they wish, to take extra courses. Occasionally a group manages to stretch the amount of time available, usually to give a good student time to write an article for publication or to come up with a research proposal. These are exceptional cases, however. According to the course directors who were asked about the possibilities for students who want to stay on after finishing an MSc, money is thin on the ground
There is always money somewhere for special things according to Dr Wim Heijman of Agricultural Economics and Management. This means that Demeke Bayou from Ethiopia will be able to go to a congress in Venice this spring where he has been asked to give a paper about his MSc research. Despite this, Bayou is not planning on staying longer in Holland. He returns to Ethiopia at the end of January to resume his teaching job at the university
Some students who leave Wageningen after an MSc course do manage to return. We hope to see you back as a PhD student, was a wish expressed many times at the graduation ceremony. The liaison office has received a total of 33 applications for sandwich grants this year. PhD students with a sandwich grant carry out fieldwork in their home countries. Writing the proposal, any extra course work, and writing up the thesis are done in Holland. The grant also includes money for the supervisor to visit the student in the field. The student's employer in the home country is responsible for a salary and financing fieldwork. Only fifteen grants are available each year, which means that about half of the applicants will be disappointed. The times when we had to go around asking students to apply for grants are over, admits Stan van Heijst from the Liaison Office. Crop Science course director Dr Kees Eveleens can see why groups are keen on obtaining sandwich grants: You know the students you're dealing with. It's easy to identify those with research potential.
If there is no money available for further research then supervisors have to let talented students go, which can be painful. Heijman recalls the case of Vietnamese student with regret, a really good student who graduated in June. They are still looking for a grant, but the course director does not hold out much hope
A sandwich grant is the most common way of financing PhD research, but there are other possibilities. If a student is recognised as having potential then a professor will try and find a pot of money somewhere, tells Dick Legger, course director for Environmental Sciences. The EU has some money available for PhD research, but it is a time-consuming, bureaucratic business getting hold of it. Eveleens adds, It's not something that you can just arrange quickly at the end of a Masters course.
Legger hopes that the WAU-DLO merger will make financing easier for MSc graduates: At DLO they are more commercially oriented than at WAU. This means that a research student is regarded as an investment, and more effort is then made to find money. Legger gives an example of a student who is already involved in research on a robot for milking. The student and the research assistant trainee who supervises him form such a good team together that a big effort will be made to find money to enable him to continue after he graduates.
It doesn't happen very often that MSc students get a position as a research assistant trainee (AIO), but it is possible, even for students from outside the European Union. It entails an awful lot of paper work, but it is possible, according to Hermans. You have to able to show that a student has extra value. It's like the footballers. You can only play in Holland if you add something extra to the team. Weng Liping, from China, will start as an AIO in the department of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition at the beginning of February. She fought hard to get the position says Legger. She was not at the graduation ceremony in the Aula on January 23, as she has gone back to China to spend time with her child
Not all students want to stay on after graduation. Heijman reckons that, of the twenty Economics students, about two or three a year start PhD research. The number who would like to do further research is about double: That's based on the number who approach me asking for a letter of recommendation.
Go home or stay here until September? Celso Marcotto from Brazil, who graduated in Ecological Agriculture last week, is faced with this dilemma. His wife has almost finished her PhD research. It would be best for her if he stayed in Holland to help look after their child, but his employer back in Brazil needs him urgently for an assignment. He hasn't made up his mind yet. If he stays here he'll need something to keep him occupied. I could pick tomatoes, he jokes, but more seriously: Maybe I'll use the time to come up with a research proposal.
MSc fees 2000 guilders higher
MSc fees will go up by 2000 guilders next year. The Executive Committee does not expect that this will affect the amount of applications, as WAU remains cheap in comparison with English and North American universities. The University plans to use the extra income from the fee rise to improve international student recruitment
Yitebitu Moges Abebe from Ethiopia won the Van der Plas Award for best MSc thesis. Moges Abebe, who graduated in Tropical Forestry, did research on reforestation possibilities in a mountainous region of Ethiopia. The jury described Moges Abebe's research as a fine piece of scientific work. The members of the jury were particularly impressed with the creative, but sound experimental design of his field research
The prize for the best poster was awarded to Ma Naixiang from China, who graduated in Animal Science
A total of 94 MSc students graduated on January 23, of which 16 with distinction