Not everyone is happy with a stronger Degree Programme Advisory Committee

Degree Programme Advisory Committees sometimes have little power. It would probably be better if they would get a stronger voice, says the Educational Inspectorate. But not everyone is convinced of this.

New research presented by the Educational Inspectorate last Friday shows that there is little similarity in how Degree Programme Advisory Committee operate. “Their ambitions are still highly diverse,” emphasises inspector Martine Pol during a busy conference in Amersfoort.

Some Committees meet very often, others rarely and they often do thankless work. Half the Committee members say that they seldom or never receive responses from management. This will change, hopes the Inspectorate, if the Committees become stronger in a recent change of law turning them into official representative partners.

From September 2017 onwards, they will have the right of consent instead of only the right to give advice. Furthermore, their members, just as is the case with other representative bodies, will be elected officially.

Whipping up
The expectations of the ISO and Dutch Student Union are very high, it appeared during a panel discussion. But Thom de Graaf, chair of the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, is less enthusiastic. The Committees should not all be tarred with the same brush, he warned. If everyone is satisfied with a degree programme, should you stimulate the Committee to have even higher aspirations, as the Inspectorate wants?

Martin Paul, Chair of the Board of Maastricht University, believes so: “It is highly desirable, even if the degree programmes and the Committees are good.” He too recognises that there are large differences, but this is why he thinks it is important that best practices are shared. For example on the new website about Committees.

In one of the many workshops, it appeared that the legal position of the Committees is still largely unclear. Just take the elections – what should they be like was the question of several conference participants. What would happen if a Committee does not even agree with the degree programme management, or, worse, with the elected Department Council too?

Education lawyer, Frank Hendriks, was unable to answer many of the questions because the law itself says little about this. The universities and universities of applied sciences will have to interpret much of this themselves. “It will be a source of joy for the institutions’ lawyers,” he jokes.

Not all conference participants are happy with the Committees’ right of consent. “Little changes for us,” says a Utrecht University Committee member. “Our advice is already taken seriously.” But one university of applied sciences lecturer considers it important that a Committee is stronger should the relationship with the Department Council not be that good. “Then you can fall back on the law.”

And should we be that happy with elections for Committee members? “Before you just applied,” says a student of the University of Groningen. “And the degree programme checked whether or not you were motivated. Now students may stand because they think it looks good on their CV and will have their friends vote for them.”

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