UC | Extracurricular proof


In a letter dated November 10, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven informed the House of Representatives that there won’t be a joint strategy to help students get recognition for extracurricular activities via a certificate. Organizations and administrators in the education sector see no added value. Along with the motion, this brushes aside the idea of a joint strategy.

The formal recognition of extracurricular activities means that students receive a document or certificate after they graduate that specifies the nature of their extracurricular activities and they did them. ICT organization SURF – mostly known among our students for making Adobe licenses more expensive – also supports a joint strategy to acknowledge extracurricular activities. The Dutch universities, students and employers’ organizations discussed the issue. Quiz question: which of these three parties did not oppose a joint official recognition of extracurricular activities?

If the right answer had earned you a repayment of your study debt, I could have made many students happy. Unfortunately, education institutions and employers’ organizations see little added value in the recognition of extracurricular activities. Minister Van Engelshoven’s aforementioned letter cites a few reasons for that, including the risk that the possibility of gaining certificates might increase the pressure to perform among students and graduates.

The letter also states that employers have little need for documents providing proof of extracurricular activities. I understand that, because you can add these activities to your CV or mention them in your letter of motivation. But if students know that employers don’t really care whether they have a certificate or not, why would it increase the pressure to perform? And wouldn’t it be nice to present your employer or internship supervisor with a document that shows that your university acknowledges the fact that you’ve learned something alongside your studies in case they ask for it? And isn’t it of any value to the university to show their students that these kinds of activities are appreciated?

Of course, the performance pressure argument is an important one, especially now that students are under serious pressure to perform as nominally as possible. But true TU/e students know that you can’t draw any conclusions without doing proper research first. My question would be: can we proof that the introduction of certificates actually increases performance pressure, or is that merely an assumption? What do we know about the positive effects of such certificates? And then there’s the assumption that ‘it is expected that employers will feel little need for certificates;’ which employers are we talking about, and are there other forms of recognition that might have a better chance of being implemented?

All SURF members, including TU/e, have access to the so-called Edubadges program that enables them to reward students with a digital certificate for knowledge and skills they acquired. TU/e takes part in a pilot with these badges, better known as Pathways at our university, and also uses the MyFuture platform to stimulate freshmen to develop their extracurricular activities. A good development, in my view, and I hope that these activities will receive national recognition. Good work takes time, so I’ll have to be patient. And I don’t wish to increase the performance pressure of our (outgoing) ministers, naturally…

Main photo | Fiskes / Shutterstock

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