Wetenschap - 25 januari 1996

MSc students favour more flexibility

MSc students favour more flexibility

Students have very different backgrounds and consequently their course requirements vary," says Marisol Arnedo. Arnedo is studying crop science and will graduate in March. She would be in favour of less compulsory subjects and more flexibility to compose her own study programme.


She explains: With limited time available for optional choices it is quite hard to follow the courses you are interested in. These are often offered at the same time during a period, and at the moment time allotted for optional courses is simply very limited." According to Arnedo the programme is too short. She laughs: I think it should be extended to three years! Some people say that thesis writing should be extended to one year which would only leave half a year for courses, but half a year really is nothing."

Zewdi Abdi is satisfied in general with his study in Agricultural Engineering. He is in favour of an increase in self study courses, since he feels that offering only lecture series narrows down the dimensions of a study. Education at WAU is structured in exactly the same way as it was in Ethiopia, where he also studied agricultural engineering. Abdi feels that these lectures take up too much time for people who have already reached an advanced level of study. In principle Abdi is in favour of more free choice, but has experienced problems in this respect. He has taken nearly all the subjects offered by the Department of Agricultural Engineering. For his remaining free optional credit points he had to go to other departments such as the Department of Economics, but he was not really interested in the courses there.

Abdi only has one major complaint to make: I believe that MSc students have the right to obtain some clarity about the differences between services offered by different programmes. Some programmes offer free study materials, copying cards, even access to the department during evening hours, but I experienced none of this. I don't mind this, but I would like someone to explain the reason for this." He concludes with one other criticism: One laboratory manual for a practical course was entirely in Dutch."

Enjoy

Kanakulya Luswata laughs: I believe that the MSc programmes are quite tight. There is not a lot of time available to enjoy the new environment you arrive in. You have to enjoy your life, that is very important!" Luswata is a good example of a student who has composed his study programme according to his own wishes and needs. He followed the MAKS programme, but after some time wanted to focus on economics and marketing. He discloses that the switch involved some explanation and discussion, but the programme director did agree to the changes. Luswata is not in favour of a higher amount of self study. He explains why: I learned a lot from other people's questions during lectures, which makes you understand the subject matter better."

Luswata agrees that this need could still be met if self study was combined with working in groups. In that case, however, he would prefer to cooperate with other MSc students and not with Dutch students. According to Luswata, Dutch students are less motivated or have other priorities. He continues: You really have to push them, they are so relaxed. Apparently they are satisfied with a 6 or even 5,5. Some of us feel that you should at least get an 8."

Maria Marathianou, has just completed the Soil and Water programme. She shares Luswata's opinion on cooperation with Dutch students. She would prefer the programmes to be separate for MSc and regular students, but realizes that the number of students is an important reason for integrating the two programmes as much as possible. Marathianou argues that self study is to some extent unfair towards students. She adds: If that were to happen I might just as well stay home and ask them to send me the materials."

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