27 September 2019 • HOP, Bas Helleman
Doctoral candidates at universities of applied sciences? No problem for research universities
Research universities and universities of applied sciences would like to reduce the educational gap between them. The most striking suggestion: universities of applied sciences will also prepare doctoral candidates.
Research universities and universities of applied sciences believe they have many similarities. They both provide bachelor and master’s degree programmes. The only difference is that research universities undertake scientific research and universities of applied sciences are more practice-based.
They do agree that collaboration could be improved. That is why they are working on further developing the so-called binary system, according to a written statement published last Friday. University of applied sciences doctoral candidates are a good example of this. The research universities already offer degree programmes for doctoral candidates, so why shouldn’t the universities of applied sciences be able to do the same?
The universities of applied sciences have been keen to move in that direction for a while. The research groups already include doctoral candidates. The universities of applied sciences collaborate with the research universities that will be granting these doctoral candidates their doctoral title in the end.
There have also been attempts to merge research universities and universities of applied sciences. For many years, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and the University of Amsterdam had the same executive board, just like Windesheim and the Vrije Universiteit. Some universities of applied sciences also offer their own academic degree programmes. The Breda University of Applied Sciences is an example of this.
The idea is to make the transition between universities of applied sciences and research universities less rigid. This was also clearly stated in the position paper published today by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. That means the research universities will not get in the way of the doctoral candidates at universities of applied sciences.
These doctoral candidates must fit within the scope of the universities of applied sciences. They will not expand scientific horizons, as is the goal of doctoral candidates at research universities. Instead, their focus will be on practice-based innovation. Their title will also be different: professional doctorate (PD). This will differ from a dr. or PhD degree.
The two sectors also want to improve their collaboration in other areas, for example in teacher training programmes. They will set up a national helpdesk to map out various teacher training options. They also want to align the currently available teacher training programmes.
The universities of applied sciences also have to become more attractive to pre-university students. This is a long-time wish as fewer pre-university education graduates are opting for an education at a university of applied sciences, which is rather unfortunate according to the educational institutions. Sometimes first-year students decide to transfer from a research university to a university of applied sciences.
We also want to make the transition from a university of applied sciences to a research university less complicated. The educational institutions are proposing online transition programmes or transition programmes that students can start while still in a university of applied sciences degree programme.
Some of these plans have been announced before, for example in the Strategic Agenda of the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. The current position paper picks up where the agenda left off. The universities of applied sciences and research universities are asking the Ministry of Education for support to implement these plans. That requires funding, but also changes in legislation.