The Utrecht educational model
The four key starting points for the Utrecht educational model are:
• A clear distinction between the Bachelor’s and the Master’s degree phase
Utrecht University seeks to provide students with a broad-based education in the Bachelor’s degree phase; in the Master’s degree phase, students go on to specialise in a specific discipline in order to prepare for a career inside or outside academia. This is why there is a clear distinction (the so-called ‘harde knip’) between the Bachelor’s degree phase and the Master’s degree phase.
In the Bachelor’s degree phase, students focus on a specific area of study and prepare for choosing a career or continuing their education. The Master’s degree phase enables students to specialise and, unlike the Bachelor’s degree phase, is expertise-driven; the emphasis is on job-market preparation or further study in academia.
• Flexibility and choice
The Bachelor’s degree phase is demand-driven so as to enable Utrecht University to meet the diversity in ambitions and talents among students. In addition to a uniform core component, students have the freedom to design part of their own course of study, within the rules set by the programme regarding coherence and level.
One quarter of the Bachelor’s degree programme consists of a free-choice component that allows students the flexibility to choose according to their interests and ambitions. Students may opt to deepen or broaden their knowledge. The learning outcomes of the Bachelor’s degree programme describe the level of learning but do not uniformly specify the content. This starting point also gives the flexibility to offer honours programmes to students seeking more challenge. Flexibility and choice also enable the University to guide students to a suitable programme more quickly.
Programme flexibility requires good curriculum organisation and support. Uniform course lengths, an academic year calendar, a uniform enrolment period, the grouping of courses into time slots, and student supervision by tutors should offer students the freedom to undertake courses inside and outside the programme.
• Personal teaching and activating teaching methods
Utrecht University strives to enable students to reach their maximum potential. A keyword here is commitment. Programmes offer a personal, activating and where possible small-group learning experience as well as good supervision and support. In return, students are asked to engage with their studies. When enrolling for a course, they are expected to meet the effort requirements and to participate in the teaching and learning activities. This approach is supported by the specification of a minimum number of contact hours per course, regular assessments, a restriction on the number of retake attempts and the introduction of progress decisions.
• Teacher professionalisation
Good teaching is done by excellent teachers who are enabled to innovate and improve their teaching. At Utrecht University, teaching qualifications play an important part in a teacher’s academic career; university-wide tools are in place to stimulate and facilitate teacher professionalisation and teaching innovation, including the Teaching Fellowship Programme, the Academic Leadership Programme, the Educational Resources Pool (EMP) and the University’s Teaching Awards presented on the University’s birthday.
Teaching and Learning Directive
In 2002, during the design of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes, an integral, University-wide vision for teaching and learning was formulated. In 2006, the Executive Board evaluated the vision; it was then set out in a Teaching and Learning Directive (in Dutch).
All programmes are judged against the Teaching and Learning Directive through an internal certification process. Certification is a requirement for inclusion in the University Register of Programmes.
NB. Since June 2011, Utrecht University has been working on revitalising the Utrecht educational model. These efforts aim to further improve graduation rates, combat delayed programme completion and delayed graduation and to reduce teacher workload.