Science - April 21, 2005

‘Party students’ frustrate supervisors

Student supervisors in Wageningen are looking for a new way to keep students focused on their books, now that they no longer have to be granted permission to start taking second-year courses. The supervisors want more opportunities to rein in ‘less serious’ students.

In meetings between course coordinators and advisors, a number of ideas have been proposed. One of them was the ‘binding study advice’, which was prematurely leaked earlier this year and directly shot down by the Board. The supervisors are looking for an alternative now that the ‘propodeuse’ has been eliminated and students no longer need permission to continue after the first year.
Course coordinator of biology, Ir Peter de Vrijer, believes that something has to be done. 'The main point of the current discussion is that there is currently no regulation at all. And this is happening at a time when we are receiving increasing signs from students that there are some individuals in working groups who don’t function at all. It’s worrisome that there is nothing we can do about it anymore.'
De Vrijer emphasises that he’s not talking about students who have lagged behind for reasons beyond their control. 'It’s a relatively small group of not-so-serious students, who severely neglect their studies. Every student can take a break from his or her studies, but this does not mean as far as I am concerned that he or she retains the same rights as the others. In the meantime they are also frustrating the efforts of the instructors.'
There appears to be no simple solution. According to De Vrijer, 'Everyone recognises the problem, but responds to it differently. Some believe in the principle that students have a right to their freedom.' Ir. Rolf Marteijn, course coordinator of Nutrition and Health, sees many obstacles. 'It is difficult to come up with a legally sound requirement. Reactions to the various proposals have also been very diverse. The problems are somewhat different for every faculty group.'
Prof. Pim Brascamp, director of the Education Institute (OWI), acknowledges that the problem has been discussed, but does not take a position. 'Our general impression is that the supervision has to be done well and has to be given a proper chance. Various approaches have been developed, but this type of thing has to be thoroughly discussed first. And all educational issues have to be approved by the Executive Board.'
In the new education and examination regulations, which will be presented to the student council soon, there is no new regulation for ‘binding study advice’. Brascamp: 'Personally I am planning to re-examine the whole structure of the supervision process in the fall. We want to look at the whole system including introduction, supervision, and academic career advice.' / JH

Re:act