Blog & Opinion
7 October 2019 • by Metten Knüppe
Hearts are sinking across the Netherlands
It was autumn 2018, almost a year ago, when my fellow project group leaders and I trekked around THUAS with the following question: “What would you do with the millions of euros that THUAS will receive from the student loan system over the coming years?” In February, we presented the progress we had made to date with the Quality Agreements. What next?
Almost ready. Right?
The Executive Board had since decided to invest in small-scale and intensive education, student support and study facilities, based on discussions with many students and lecturers. As a project group, we set to work on translating these choices into a plan that could endure the critical eye of the NVAO. That is because the NVAO, which is also the organisation that accredits our degree programmes, will be assessing our plan during its visit in January 2020 for the Institutional Audit on Quality Assurance. For this reason, we have organised close-reading sessions and discussed the draft plan with the General Council. This was completed by the end of spring.
“Specific and long-term”
I was thinking that we had got our ducks nicely in a row. However, at around that time, the first experiences from other universities of applied sciences began to trickle through. What did they reveal? Almost all large universities of applied sciences received a negative assessment for their plans for the resources from the student loan system. Hearts are sinking across the Netherlands. They will have to try again next year. The TV programme “NOS op 3” made a short film about this last month. In almost all cases, the problem was that the plans for the money had not been sufficiently worked out in a “specific and long-term” manner. The NVAO panels seemed to interpret the criteria in a much stricter way than nearly all of the universities of applied sciences had anticipated. Clearly, the intention was for us to create a detailed plan for each faculty about exactly how this money will be spent over a three-year period. In June, the NVAO confirmed that this was indeed its view.
All hands on deck
This was why the faculties were asked to prepare a general outline of their plans before the summer. They did this, and the plans looked good. Now that summer is behind us, the faculties, business controllers and the project group are working together to develop these plans into more detail. This is now almost complete, but it has created a considerable amount of extra work. Although it is good to have clear plans, the ambiguity about the method of assessment has led to a bureaucratic process. I would have preferred to have invested all the hours that we all spent on this in our education.
Every cloud has a silver lining
Nevertheless, we are lucky. As luck had it, THUAS will be one of the last universities of applied sciences to be assessed. This means that we have been able to benefit from the experiences of other institutions, which will give us a greater chance of a positive assessment. The effect of a positive opinion will be that we will see an annually increasing amount from the student loan system until 2024. Aside from the fact that we will be extremely proud to successfully get through such strict assessments in one go. We will hear about the assessment by early February at the latest. Then we will know whether we have actually succeeded.
Metten Knüppe has been the project leader of the Institutional Audit of the Quality Assurance and Quality Agreements since 1 October 2018. The question he hears most frequently is, “great, but what exactly do you do?” In this blog, Metten will attempt to make these rather abstract subjects accessible to students and staff. If only because everyone will be affected by them this year.