As of the academic year 2023-2024, the five basic courses currently offered to first-year bachelor's students piecemeal throughout the academic year will all become study options in the first semester of that year. This proposal is part of the plan (only accessible via intranet, ed.) to revise the Bachelor College, compiled this past year under the direction of professor Ines Lopez Arteaga, Dean of the Bachelor College. It is one of the aspects of the Bachelor College that some are keen to see changed. But on Monday afternoon it was an aspect that met with strong criticism from the University Council. Significant motivation for the criticism was the negative recommendation (only accessible via intranet, ed.) on this point issued last week by the Joint Program Committee (JPC), a body comprising students and lecturers.
The JPC recommendation opens by citing the reasons, put forward by the plan's compilers, why the new timetabling of the basic courses deserves support. At present, it is argued, some basic courses are offered too early, others too late. In addition, the prior knowledge students bring is believed to vary from one department to the next, while they must all take the same courses. And as a third point, it is said that at present a clear connection is lacking between some basic courses and the major, and that lecturers teaching the major are not always well informed of the content of the basic courses.
For the members of the JPC, these reasons are insufficient to warrant abandoning the current approach to timetabling. The JPC recommendation states that the success of the new approach would greatly depend on the good integration of the five basic courses in the major and that ‘at the moment we are not convinced that sufficient attention has been paid to this aspect’. Were this not to be properly addressed, the JPC believes the serious risk would arise that ‘students making study choices would no longer find a program's design appealing and this could adversely impact the number of first-year enrolments’.
Furthermore, there are believed to be some departments, such as Mathematics and Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, where the new approach would be problematic to introduce because early on it is very difficult to give students a clear picture of the program they are following. Nor does the JPC see how a different proposal - having the first-years carry out in the first semester a multidisciplinary project related to the basic courses - can be viable with students who have as yet learned very little about their major. ‘They would be carrying out any such project by drawing on what they learned in high school,’ writes the JPC.
Clarification and amplification
The UC said yesterday afternoon that it endorses the JPC's critical comments and is also keen to know the state of play regarding the feasibility of the proposed plans. To assess this, the UC requires further clarification and amplification of the plans, said Koen de Nooij, faction president of Groep-één, who read out a statement on behalf of the council.
De Nooij: “What are the benefits and drawbacks of these plans? What alternatives have been considered? Are the proposed plans realistic? Are they feasible for the university in terms of organization, finance? Especially considering the added workload these plans entail for our employees working in the departments.”
In addition, the UC wishes to see as soon as possible an example of a basic course where a clear relationship with a major has been drawn. Departments that expect the new structure to involve problems will require special attention. And, the UR is of the opinion that a market survey must be completed before February among potential students making study choices, addressing the question of whether they find the proposed new approach as appealing at the current one.
Rector Frank Baaijens stated yesterday that, like Dean Lopez Arteaga, he too found the proposals made in the plan to be realistic and feasible. He proposed engaging in discussion with the UC in the coming months about the further development of the plan. Subsequent meetings between the program directors, the departmental deans and the Dean of the Bachelor College could be attended by two student representatives, suggested Lopez Arteaga, speaking from the public gallery. Baaijens wishes to see the consultations proceed on a milestone basis. This means holding a monthly meeting, consensus-seeking and, said Baaijens, content-driven, at which a particular aspect of the plan is discussed. In February the council will again be asked to approve the plan when it is resubmitted having been revised and improved.