Before blogger Geert van Zandbrink starts bragging about WUR being the best university in the Netherlands, he dives into the Guide to Higher Education.
© Sven Menschel
It’s impossible to miss – the sticker next to the Forum entrance: ‘Best university 2019’. The Guide to Higher Education declared Wageningen University & Research to be the very best in the Netherlands. Gives us something to boast about to friends from other cities, especially when they make condescending remarks about our beautiful town.
But that hallmark sounded vaguely familiar: from various open days, I remember a ‘best programme’ in Maastricht and a ‘best classical university’ in Nijmegen. I also find it striking that this assessment is for 2019, although the year has yet to start. Time for a little dive into the Guide to Higher Education, before the rash bragging starts.
The Guide to Higher Education seems to be meant for high school pupils, which in retrospect seems rather logical when one looks at the name. That’s why it’s prepared for the following year.
And yet, it’s not easy to get your hands on: only global results are available online, and if one wants to see the full details as a private individual, one has to pay 28.95 euros to acquire the entire thing. Luckily, the WUR Library offers a license to see the results online, as well as look into the methodology of the study.
The Guide to Higher Education inspects the relative quality of programmes and universities in the Netherlands. When a programme is one of the best in a certain field, it gets two pluses; if it is in the bottom 40 percent, it is given a minus. A general assessment ensues from a comparison of various aspects.
The evaluations are based off of various sources. The first and foremost is the National Student Survey, in which students express their opinion on their programme and university. But accreditations from the Ministry and outcomes of the programmes on the labour market are also taken into account. Although the methodology of a qualitative study remains difficult, it seems to be sound.
In the National Student Survey, students of smaller universities and programmes are often more positive than students who feel like a ‘serial number’. This makes it more difficult for larger universities to score well in the test. This is also why the Guide created the mark for ‘best classical university’ for the larger universities. This year’s was awarded to Radboud University Nijmegen.
But even better than that were the results of Wageningen. We simply score very high. And although that might be easier to pull off for a smaller university, we can certainly be proud of it. That sticker can stay, and the boasting can begin.