A fundamental debate is needed about the university’s growth, says the new Dean of Education Arnold Bregt. The Student Council agrees.
© Paul Gerlach
Bregt made this plea in an interview with Resource about the continuing growth in student numbers. A recent survey among staff by Resource revealed that this increase is causing problems. ‘For a long time growth has been seen as something positive, something that we could all be proud of,’ says Bregt. ‘But the current education model is reaching the limits of what is possible.’
The crux of the problem is that staffing levels have not increased in line with student numbers. According to figures from the Association of Universities, student-to-staff ratios have more than doubled in the past ten years from 7 students per staff member to 15. That is leading to unhealthy, unsustainable workloads. According to Bregt, the Wageningen education model based on extensive contact between teaching staff and students is under threat. ‘We can no longer afford to teach so intensively across the board like we used to.’
The call from the new head of education is supported by the Student Council. The three student parties, VeSte, CSF and S&I, plan to raise the issue of growth in their next meeting with the rector Arthur Mol on 4 July. VeSte spokesperson Ellen de Jong: ‘We’ve been talking about this issue for some time already. Students have been coming to us with their concerns about groups that are too big and not being able to find thesis places.’
‘The big workload for teaching staff is affecting the quality of the education,’ adds Ties Terlouw of CSF. The students have already mentioned the growth-related problems several times to the rector. So far in vain. De Jong: ‘But now the Resource survey gives us figures we can use to back up our concerns. We fully support the call by Arnold Bregt. The university needs to have a vision about growth.’
The students say the Strategic Plan can hardly be used at all as a guide for growth. De Jong: ‘It’s all too vague and unspecific’. ‘The university has come from a period around the turn of the century when it nearly went bankrupt,’ adds Terlouw. ‘So it has always embraced
growth. You can see that’s a factor whenever you raise the issue of growth.’ De Jong: ‘It would be quite an achievement if we could get the Executive Board to acknowledge there is a problem.’