Science - September 29, 2005

Study programmes get good review

The nine Wageningen study programmes recently evaluated by the review committee for the Life Sciences and Natural Resources come out well. The committee’s one slight criticism was that in some programmes there was no clear cohesion between the different courses.

Professor Pim Brascamp, the director of the Educational Institute, was presented with the report on Tuesday 27 September. The programmes of the former Technology and Nutrition Educational Institute in particular received praise from the review committee. Many programmes scored an eight and there were even a few nines for staff quality.

The criticism made of some of the programmes concerns the cohesion between courses and the effectiveness of the organisation. Committee chair, Professor Rietje van Dam: ‘The student-staff ratio in Wageningen is excellent and the quality is fine at the moment, but we wonder whether this will remain so if programmes start to grow. We missed cohesion within programmes.’ Brascamp’s response is that this is confirmation of the choice to merge the four separate educational institutes into one central institute

Van Dam warned against too much emphasis on an individual approach in the face of increasing international student numbers. ‘Wageningen has a very heterogeneous group of students. At present many problems are solved individually, but it is questionable whether this can be maintained in the long run.’ Van Dam herself is an Open University professor and has a lot of experience with distance learning. She points to the advantages of ICT. ‘You can develop good instruments for remedial teaching; by using ICT for example you can help students to come up to standard even before they have arrived here.’

Higher education programmes are reviewed every six years by an external committee. Since 2004, programmes that are positively evaluated receive an accreditation, which entitles both institution and students to government finance. The Life Sciences and Natural Resources cluster is relatively new and consists solely of programmes available at Wageningen University. It is therefore impossible to compare them with programmes at other universities. / JH

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