By Vera Vrijmoeth
‘University College of Apathy’, ‘Breaking down the walls of discipline’, ‘So, how much money do your parents make?’ These are some of The Boomerang’s headlines from the past year. These titles aren’t just isolated articles, they show a growing awareness. Students have come to realize that even though there are many good elements to UCU academics, education at UCU can and should change for the better.
This is the first of a new column in which I, as chair of ASC, will share our impression of the quality of UCU’s education and what we’re doing to improve it.
Many problems with UCU’s education are structural. For instance, the quality management processes – such as the student evaluations – do not always run smoothly. There is little transparency about what is done with student feedback. Moreover, accountability of instructors and faculty on implementation of these suggested improvements is occasionally lacking. In courses, we see a focus on getting good grades rather than looking at how the student can develop most. Finally, even though interdisciplinary thinking is a skill that students ought to develop, it is not yet ingrained in UCU’s multidisciplinary curriculum.
Our vision is that UCU’s education should change. Innovation is necessary as the educational landscape around us is evolving and constantly improving. In the past months, ASC has collaborated with the Science Head of Department to start a pilot on midterm evaluations. After one third of the course has taken place, students will have a discussion with the teacher on how to improve the course. This way, not only will future students benefit from feedback, students already participating in the course will too. Additionally, a pilot initiated by ASC to introduce Project Weeks in which students from multiple disciplines collaborate on real-world problems has been approved by the College Board of UCU. It will offer students opportunities to develop in novel ways. Finally, we would like to remind students to push for inter- or multidisciplinary theses, as it is officially allowed and more students should take advantage of it.
‘University College of Apathy?’ Yes, coming from a situation of little change, I understand where that headline was coming from. Moreover, there are reasons for us to be and remain critical of the education that we receive. However, what impresses me is that there are many of you and many within faculty and staff that take that responsibility and are working to solve the problems I mentioned. Also, the Repower UCU initiative is an example of that: creating a movement to make our campus more sustainable. To use a cliché: if something is difficult to change, it doesn’t mean we should not try. In the upcoming months, ASC aims to continue to create a lasting impact by increasing the role of personal development in our curriculum, improve diversity and facilitate your individual exploration at UCU!