Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
Criticism of top 3 percent awards
“When I look at you I don’t see nerds, I see young people eager to take part in and contribute to society”, said rector Gerard Mols to the winners at the top 3 percent awards ceremony last Thursday at the Theater aan het Vrijthof. This was the third year that the awards were presented to the 413 students whose study results belong to the top 3 percent of their faculty. Mols was emphasising the fact that just getting high grades is not everything: having a creative mind and contributing to society is just as important. He feels that although the university selects the top 3 percent according to their grades, the recipients still have these qualities.
Now that the evaluation of the top 3 percent regulation is coming up (Mols said during the last University Council meeting that it would be this spring, although the Executive Board pages in Observant say it will be after the fourth round of awards, i.e. November 2011), criticism of the regulation is rising. “Spending the money [over €700,000 –ed.] on this means we can’t give it to students from third world countries who are also very good but can’t afford to come and study here”, said Rein de Wilde, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, at a Studium Generale debate two weeks ago. The University Council discussed the idea of abolishing the grant as a way to save money instead of, for instance, asking for higher tuition fees from UCM students.
One grant recipient, third-year Health Sciences student Carolien Dekker, is sympathetic to the criticism. “I understand completely. There are many students who need the money more than I do. I’m not going to refuse it though; if the university offers it to me it’s their choice.” This is the second time she has won the award. “I didn’t expect it; I thought it was a once in a lifetime thing. I’m not going to try harder to get it again next year – I’ll just continue studying like I do now.”
Karlijn Hakvoort, a third-year medical student, does not think that the top 3 percent grant is a useless measure. “It’s good publicity for the university. That’s what this is; advertising. It will gain them something.” Meanwhile, she is happy with the money. “I’m going to buy a new instrument; I also study at the music conservatory.”
University Council member and fellow award winner Lukas Wetzel thinks that rewarding excellent students is good, but would prefer that it was done in a different way. “It’s good they have the ceremony and the certificate to show future employers, but I don’t think it needs to cost so much money. I would prefer it if the award was an internship abroad or a job as a student assistant. The money would be spent more efficiently that way and the students would have long-term benefits from the experience, instead of the short-term benefits of a grant.”