UC | Improving the quality of our education
After several months of brainstorming and discussing, the Executive Board and the University Council have agreed on the investments for the quality agreements. This money was made available by the government as a compromise after the abolishment of the basic scholarship (basisbeurs). The agreement makes the TU/e the first university of the Netherlands that has approved its investment plan. In this column, the University Council reflects on the plan.
In 2015, the basic scholarship was abolished. The money that would be saved by this decision would be invested in the quality of higher education. For our university, this comes down to three million euros this year, which will gradually increase to seven million.
The money that comes available for investments is money that comes from all students. As such, one of our main focuses while developing the plan was that the money should really be used for the benefit of all students. This means that we did not want to see investments in excellence programs for specific groups of students or say for plans that would only apply to larger study programs. Furthermore, we found it crucial that the money would be spent to truly improve the quality of education, as this is what the money is intended for, and thus not to better control the fast growth of our university.
Contents of the plan
One of the most prominent focuses of this plan is an investment in small-scale and intensive education. This will be done by appointing more temporary staff and teaching assistants, which will allow for smaller project groups. At the same time, the permanent staff can be relieved from certain tasks, which will allow them to focus more on teaching activities. Additionally, investments will be made for experiments with challenge-based learning, which is in line with the TU/e strategy 2030.
Another interesting goal in the plan is to invest in more streaming and video lectures. However, one aspect here was very important to us: the investments should not be used as a means to manage large courses. Instead, the use of video lectures should depend on how a course can be improved by it, regardless of whether 25 or 250 students follow the course.
Besides these topics, some other goals that are included in the plan are further development and support for the use of ICT in education, extra trainings for teachers, a pilot for students to earn badges for certain skills or achievements, and new activities for cooperation with the university ecosystem. Of course, the progress of reaching these goals will be evaluated over time. If needed, adjustments to the plans can still be made in later years.
The abolishment of the basic scholarship is still a highly debated topic among students. Unfortunately, this is not a topic over which we as the University Council have control. What we do have control over, however, is how the resulting funds can contribute to the quality of our study programs.
All over the Netherlands, universities are still having tough discussions on how to use these additional funds. Seeing these issues at other universities, we are happy that our process of establishing this plan went smoothly, which is also reflected in the TU/e being the first university of the Netherlands in which the plan for quality agreements has been approved. The TU/e already stands for a high quality of education. We hope that these new investment plans will improve this quality even further.