Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts
New bachelor's on ethical, cultural, social and political issues relating to digitalisation
MAASTRICHT. Digital Transformations will be the third bachelor's programme at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, opening its door - if everything goes according to plan - in 2019. This is a “working title”, emphasises dean Sophie Vanhoonacker, for an interdisciplinary programme aimed at providing insight into a variety of ethical, political, cultural and social issues arising in our increasingly digitised society.
An “open call” within the faculty last autumn led to seven proposals for new bachelor's programmes, three of which eventually passed the preselection stage. The main selection criteria included interdisciplinarity, a match with existing faculty research programmes, links with social issues, appeal to future students, and career opportunities for graduates. This was followed by discussions with experts both within and outside the faculty/UM, resulting this month in the choice of the bachelor's of Digital Transformations. “Our world is digitising rapidly and the use of all those apps, robots, Facebook and masses of stored data create issues to which society does not have any answers yet. To give an example: insurance companies are apparently trying to determine risks based on Facebook postings. Suppose they see someone regularly eating a hamburger; they might conclude that this person runs a higher risk of obesity. That would be improper use of information.” The new bachelor's programme will focus on ethical, cultural, social and political issues relating to digitisation. It is not just a programme run by FASoS departments and research groups (the leader being professor Sally Wyatt), but the Faculty of Law, the School of Business and Economics, the Smart Services Campus, Data Science and Knowledge Engineering, and the new institute for Data Science led by the new university professor Michel Dumontier are “potential partners”, says Vanhoonacker. “We can give the programme a broad basis within the UM, because we cover both the ‘hard’ technical side as well as the softer side – humanities and social sciences. That is unique and fits in with our intention to build bridges, as is described in our strategic plan.”
The other two proposals, Global Studies and Environment and Sustainability Studies, were discarded. The former because it was too much like the existing bachelor's programme of European Studies and Arts and Culture, and the latter would have to compete against a similar bachelor's programme (recently started) in Utrecht. Vanhoonacker: “It remains to be seen whether we would get approval for the latter from the Efficiency in Higher Education Committee (Commissie Doelmatigheid Hoger Onderwijs, or CDHO), a government agency that examines need for new programmes and whether graduates would easily find jobs.”
The new bachelor's programme will first be submitted to the national CDHO for a so-called ‘macro-efficiency test’, after which education accreditation agency NVAO will check to see whether the programme is properly set up in terms of content and educational aspects. Vanhoonacker: “A new programme like this offers many chances. We can develop new education and strengthen the link with existing research.” In addition, Digital Transformations is important for FASoS’s “sustainability”. It should help us reverse the trend of decreasing numbers of students. By 2021, as the strategic plan states, the faculty wants to have grown from the present 1,650 students to 2,100.