The International Business & Languages (IBL) study programme has significantly improved its graduation programme, as shown by the recent revision. According to the revision committee, the improvements affect the ‘entire quality of the study programme’. Profielen asked students if they agreed.
The IBL team had to work hard last year after their graduation quality received a negative assessment from the NVAO accreditation organisation. The IBL and NVAO agreed upon a recovery period of one year.
More emphasis on research competencies
The graduation phase required more emphasis on subjects such as innovation and research competencies that year. Revision committee NQA, which visited the study programme in December for a revision, issued a favourable opinion on the implemented improvements to the NVAO.
The improvements do not only benefit the graduation phase. The revision committee also welcomes the currently prevailing ‘culture’ of the study programme, which sees more teamwork among lecturers and other staff members. They are now a team that ‘aims to offer students a high-quality study programme’.
‘Good study programme, no complaints’
Do the students experience it this way, too? Three first-year students in the canteen on the eighth floor of the Posthumalaan location definitely did. ‘It is a good study programme. We have no complaints,’ they said. They have not heard about the revision, and it is understandably difficult for first-year students to make a comparison to the previous year.
Two other first-year students say that they did hear a thing or two from older students. ‘They said it was chaotic, and that there were lots of free hours. That is different now; we even have a day off by default.’ Amongst other things, the two students are positive about the way four first-year subjects complement each other ‘very well’.
‘First-year subjects better organised’
A second-year student who still had to pass some first-year subjects over the past months can see the difference. ‘Last year, ‘critical thinking’ was still a separate subject, while it has now been added to ‘law’. It definitely has added value there. The first-year subjects are generally better organised and distributed.’ She was also very positive about the organisation of the second year. ‘I have the idea that the block introductions and the explanations are better. But that may be because I am more involved this time; I often stay at school longer, which means you simply pick up more.’
The student also recognises an improvement in the contact with lecturers, but that may also be because of the school location. ‘RBS has its own building here; it is small, so it is easy to run into lecturers. At the Kralingse Zoom, you sometimes had to go from the C to the D building. You barely ever saw the lecturers outside of lectures.’
‘Lecturers should try to be on the same page’
With some reservation, the students shares the observation of the NQA that staff members (including lecturers) act as a team more. ‘I feel like they do, but I cannot really put it into words.’ Some fellow students do have a few comments on the team performance of the lecturers. ‘Sometimes they all tell us something different, about the hand-in dates for assignments for example. They should try to be on the same page.’ The right lecturers are not always assigned to the right subjects either, they claim.
The individual lecturers do pass with flying colours according to these second-year students. ‘They really use our feedback, and they are good and disciplined lecturers that are always open for improvement.’
‘Safer environment, with more room to speak your mind’
One of those lecturers expresses the hope that most students recognise that the study programme is doing better than a year before. She definitely thinks so, thanks to the measures that were taken after IBL did not pass the accreditation. ‘It has had a great effect. Lecturers have fewer tasks now, and more ownership over the tasks they have and the setup of the study programme. It has also led to a safer environment, with more room to speak your mind.’
While lecturers already spoke to each other before, there are now real discussions, the lecturer says. One of the topics is thesis quality. ‘We have made some real improvements in that area. For example, we are now very strict when it comes to referencing,’ the lecturer states.
Thesis writer feels disadvantaged by improvements
The stricter requirements do affect graduates, as a fifth-year student working on her thesis in a study space noted. She feels disadvantaged by the improvements that were implemented over the past year. ‘In June, I was in the middle of writing my thesis when the requirements were changed; I had to start over.’ In the months leading up to that, the lecturers and her thesis supervisor did not really know what to do, she says. ‘It was chaos.’
The fifth-year student is disappointed that her thesis is subject to stricter requirements than those of her former classmates when they graduated. ‘I read their theses. They were of a lower level than the one I have to write now, but they did correspond to the subject matter of the years before. I learned things about research, but that did not help me with my thesis.’
The students who started their thesis last September are doing better, the fifth-year student says. ‘They receive better supervision and are taught how to perform research. I never had that.’ The student does understand that the graduation level had to be increased, however.
Credits for Interim Course Manager
The abovementioned lecturer gives the credit for the implemented improvements to Interim Course Manager Dolf Pellenbarg, who started when the study programme was ‘at a low point’. ‘Because he did not have a past here, we took him more seriously than anyone else for some reason. He gave us ownership of the issues we were facing. That really worked out well.’
Text: Jos van Nierop
Illustration: Demian Janssen