Nieuws - 29 september 2011

Elsevier: Wageningen degrees the best (say students)

Students give Wageningen degree courses very high scores but professors at other universities say they are not worth much. This all too familiar conclusion can be drawn from Elsevier magazine's special issue on Dutch degrees that came out today.

The gap between the opinion of our own students and professors elsewhere is extreme. The five Wageningen University degree courses that were evaluated all got a glowing top position in students' rankings, but the professors ranked the same courses bottom - with the exception of Biology, which the academic elite put third.
The five Wageningen degree programmes Elsevier assessed are Economics, Health Studies, Biomedical Sciences, Communication Studies and Biology. Elsevier bases its figures on the National Student Survey, which is also the basis for, the site that helps you choose a study.  
The lecturers in particular score well above average, with Biology (7.9) and Communication Studies (8.0) heading the group. Pim Brascamp, Director of the Wageningen Educational Institute, is not surprised. 'Wageningen University spends a lot of time on teaching compared with the rest. The ratio of students to academic staff is also much better than at other universities. That is a choice and we reap the benefits in surveys like this.'
Neither does he find it strange that the professors are less impressed with Wageningen's degree courses. 'Biology is the only broad-based degree programme in the list that can really be compared with other programmes in the Netherlands, and that has a perfectly decent third place. But the others are all far more specific courses. We don't even have "Biomedical" Sciences, for example. I suspect that really refers to Biotechnology or Molecular Life Sciences. It's only logical that a professor somewhere else won't pick that as his favourite.'
Brascamp says the professors mainly vote for individual people in such surveys, i.e. the personalities who determine a course's image. 'That's why I would have expected Communications, with Cees van Woerkum and Cees Leeuwis, to be a bit higher up the list. But of course they are focusing on a specific niche in terms of content. It appears that means you are off the radar of Dutch professors.'