Two and a half years since the Wageningen honours programme was launched, the executive board has decided to double its size. From 2017 onwards, 60 rather than 30 students will be able to join the programme. The decision was prompted by the positive interim evaluation of the programme and the amount of interest from students.
The honours programme is an extension of a normal Bachelor’s programme, offering students 30 extra credits, to be obtained in three years. Participants both deepen and broaden their knowledge, work on their skills and learn to work on projects.
The first years of the honours programme have gone well. Of the first cohort in 2014, 27 of the 30 students got the certificate or are due to get it soon. ‘We look back on a nice period, because we have satisfied customers, both the students and the teachers. Of the 2015 cohort, it looks as though everyone’s going to pass,’ says Ellis Hoffland, academic director of the Honours Programme.
The students in the first cohort were initially critical of the programme. They were not always clear about the assignments and many of them suffered from stress and too much work pressure. These concerns prompted a few students to conduct a survey. ‘Many students felt as though they could end up with a burnout if things went on the way they were much longer,’ says Anne van der Heijden, whose honours certificate is in the bag. ‘We did get the impression that this was sometimes because students did too many other things as well. Students are expected to put other activities on the back burner. If they don’t do that, they feel too much work pressure.’
Student Merijn Kerstens, who has completed the honours programme too, agrees. ‘I was doing all sorts of things on top of my studies. It was nice, but you have to make choices. I thought we hadn’t been very well informed about that, but I don’t see that as a problem. It was a good life lesson to learn when you set the bar too high and should take it a bit easier. We were the first cohort, so it is logical that not everything went to plan.
Ellis Hoffland can confirm that not everything went smoothly. ‘In the past couple of years we’ve become clearer about what we expect from the students. And about how we evaluate the programme. The level has been defined better. Students have more idea what to expect.’ The importance of cutting down on other activities besides the honours programme is always emphasised during the application process, says Hoffland.