Student - July 5, 2012

Honours programme for fast-lane students

From 2013, highflying bright students will probably be offered the option of following an Honours Programme on top of their regular degree programme. The university has wanted to lay on this kind of 'excellence programme' for some time and now it is going to happen, the university and the minister of EL&I have announced.

Did you start to think after the first few months of your degree course, 'Is this all there is to it?'? And did you get top grades for all your first year courses?  Then you would have been a likely candidate for what will soon be known as the Wageningen excellence programme. It is a concept that has already been introduced in many Dutch universities, and Wageningen has been pondering it for years. Studium Generale tried something of the sort with a project in which students went to meetings and wrote reports, for which they got a certificate at the end. But the new plans are more far-reaching than this, says educational policy advisor Michèle Gimbrère: 'We want to gather the best students and put them through an intensive programme. We'll mix up all the different degrees, because not many people will qualify for it.' So there will be a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary work.
Own input
The Environmental Sciences Group (ESG) has been piloting a two-year Honours Programme over the past academic year. Eleven students applied and seven were selected. One of these dropped out but the remaining six meet for one and a half hours every week to work together on a joint project. This enables them to learn about each other's disciplines and to acquire skills such as chairing meetings and collaborating. The programme also includes advanced courses and their Bachelor's thesis is more in-depth than usual. 
An interesting feature if the ESG approach is that the students themselves get to provide a lot of input: they help decide what they are going to learn. A lot more work is going to be done on the programme in this pilot, which will provide the basis for the WU-wide version.

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