By Julie Albers and Welmoed van Ens
Does studying at the best Bachelor in the Netherlands automatically propel us into prestigeous master programmes, and eventually, jobs? UCU is no golden ticket to a certain future, but it seems that overall, the advantages of the Liberal Arts and Sciences philosophy outweigh the disadvantages and we have reason to be optimistic.
Director of Education Fried Keesen has a very clear idea of our future. This has less to do with his psychic powers and more with UCU’s explicit and unique educational philosophy about the way we should be prepared for it. Fried Keesen: “We try to provide an answer to the observation that professions are dynamic. They come and go, and even within one profession there is change and innovation. In the past you could still take your education and capitalize on the skills you learned for the rest of your life. That’s no longer the case today. We actually prepare students for a career rather than a profession.”
Instead of providing us with the tools to land our first job, the idea is to teach the skills that will be the basis of a successful career. “When it comes to the all-roundness it takes to survive and prosper in the current labor market, we need to feed you all sorts of different insights, concepts and ways of working, paradigms and cultural perspectives. What we very much try to foster in students is intellectual versatility. We make you explore different traditions of truthfinding and confront you with different ways of thinking.”
Many aspects of our social environment, such as living in units, reflect this philosophy: we are shifted around, so that we come to understand and respect diverse types of people and are constantly confronted with different cultures. Academically, our language and culture requirement, the breadth requirement, and even Research in Context contribute to this versatility.
Keesen’s favourite quote of Einstein sums it all up: “‘Education is that which remains when you have forgotten all that you learned in school.’ It’s about the level of thinking. That is what we try to achieve as much as we can.”
When we asked our Career Development Officer Bas Defize what we could do to improve our chances at finding a good master’s or employment, the answer was: “If you already know what you want: do an internship. If you are not sure yet, do an internship.” For those that already have a career in mind, networking is crucial, and if you are still unsure an internship can help you decide if a particular field really suits you. He stresses that it is not UCU’s job to take us by the hand and arrange things for us, but that there is a lot they can do for students that ask for help.
Most importantly, start thinking about your career early. “Most start thinking relatively late, if at all, which really is a problem.” Defize also mentions our research thesis as an excellent opportunity to distinguish ourselves. Try to come up with your own original topic, and conduct your research in an off campus organization.
When it comes to masters, Bas Defize says: “Getting in with a degree from UCU is not necessarily a piece of cake. This College has only had 15 years to build a name and there are many institutes that still don’t know us.” That does not mean that the situation is hopeless, thanks to our 2218 alumni, who are paving the way for future generations.
Alumna Floortje Bijleveld tells us: “When I graduated from UCU in 2004, the law faculty at Erasmus University that I applied to was initially quite skeptical, although I did get accepted to the pre-master program. Two years later, the economics faculty was more flexible since a few other UCU students had already been accepted.” Tim Kroezen, class of 2013, shared a similar experience at the ASC Master’s Event: having UCU alumni do well in the program he applied to made a big difference. Bas Defize adds: “With every UCU graduate that successfully completes a program, institutions gain confidence in the competence of UCU students.”
Since College Hall doesn’t go around master’s programs handing out flyers, it is mostly up to our alumni to build our name. That being said, staff is more than willing to help students apply to programs that do not recognize UCU. “If necessary, Fried Keesen will even get in touch with them,” says Defize.
Alumni also tell us that UCU’s reputation varies across countries. In the Netherlands it is often mistaken for a Hogeschool, which is the level under University education. Alumna Minh Tue Ngoc, class of 2013, says that universities in the UK are more familiar with the LAS concept. Not surprisingly, 29,8% of our alumni continue their studies there.
We are well prepared for our master’s and UCU is slowly gaining recognition, but how well do UCU’s alumni manage themselves at the labor market? Statistics from alumni surveys show that 26,3% are employed in Teaching and Research, 13,2% in Management, Governance and Policy Making and 11,9% in Consultancy. Bijleveld, who works for the consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, has indeed experienced the advantages of the skills she learnt here: “UCU has taught me a lot of things I still use every day in my work, such as presentation skills, analytical thinking and how to work together in teams.” Defize adds that “students sometimes lack factual knowledge, but they know how to pick things up fast and work really hard.”
Again, extracurricular activities outside UCU also contribute to our development. “Explore the world!” says Bijleveld, who gained experience on her exchange to Australia, as a chairperson of the Chambre of Student Associations in Rotterdam and as an AIESEC ambassador in Portugal. “But don’t do anything just because it might look good on your resume. As long as you enjoy yourself, whether it’s by organizing events, playing music or travelling, you’ll get the most out of it.”
Studying at UCU is by no means a guarantee for a golden future, but it is a good place to start. When we ask Fried Keesen for some final words of advice, he says: “Don’t look at where the shortages in the labor market are; follow your passion. UCU students are all very talented. If you follow your heart, you will probably become really good at something, and once you have accomplished that, it will pay off in your career.” In which way can this be more strongly underlined than by the fact that 93,3% of the alumni would choose UCU again?