Back to Basics is the overall heading for the faculties’ experiments over the past few years, a series of innovations that were supposed to shake up the Maastricht education system. Lecturers and tutors with good ideas were able to apply for ‘microcredit’, applications for which would be dealt with within four weeks.
"Interesting flowers bloomed during that time," says rector Luc Soete, "but they were not ‘embedded’ in the faculties." According to Harm Hospers, "less has changed than everyone had hoped. That was not because of unwillingness, but it shows the struggle caused by innovation. Sometimes a gentle nudge is required."
That is why the Executive Board has created the position of 'vice rector of education'. Soete: "You need someone who is in charge and takes decisions. Which projects to implement and which not? This will be accompanied by a certain amount of harmonisation, but what is more important is a vision that can be used to innovate education. That is an unimaginable challenge. You have to gain support from all the faculties for new methods and applications."
The rector retains final responsibility for education; the vice rector gets a mandate to monitor the quality of education, as well as control over the implementation of improvement programmes. He will give the faculties advice, “at their request or at his own initiative”. His main activities include coordination of accreditations and being a member or chairman of a variety of education-related committees and working groups, such as those in the field of minors and the “international classroom”.
Why does the rector himself not do that? "As a rector, I don’t deal with the details of our education system. It is very difficult to see what exactly is happening on the work floor looking from above. The vice rector has a better view. Besides, as director of Edlab, Hospers knows a great deal more about educational innovation than I do. And that is what it is all about."
Hospers expects that a number of projects, detailed in Edlab (Education laboratory, based in the Tapijn barracks), will have gained a firm foothold in the faculties within a year. "Preparatory discussions have proved that all faculties are thinking about examination," says the FHS dean, who is also dean of UCM. "It wouldn’t surprise me if that were to become one of the main issues in the coming year. Faculties don’t always want to test using multiple-choice questions, but what is the alternative if they have such large numbers of students? The accreditation reports have also shown that two assessors for each final project is becoming the standard. That is quite something. Usually it is one, even at UCM. How do you manage that without doubling the workload? You have to come up with clever solutions for that."
Edlab will also look at the ‘excellence programmes’ at the UM and the policy regarding minors. "It is not always easy to explain why certain things are different at each faculty. Students also notice this. Are the differences necessary? It is not a bad thing to think about this. Lastly, we want to create more communities and set up more common rooms. Young people feel that this is important, cultural exchange, just like broader education programmes with more freedom of choice."
Hospers will start as vice rector on 1 February and stop as dean of Humanities and Sciences and as dean of University College. A successor has not been named yet.