28 February 2019 • HNTB, Arie Verhoef
Get Rid of Those Labels: Believe In Yourself
Do you feel welcome at this university of applied sciences? Do you feel part of the community? Are you getting the support you need as a student to dedicate yourself to your degree programme? These are important questions. This becomes apparent during an introduction meeting with Maurice Limmen at THUAS. In December of 2018 he became the new chair of The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences.
Anyone who can answer a heartfelt ‘yes’ to all the questions above will likely have an enjoyable time at our school. That is why we are committed to accessibility, inclusivity and equal opportunity. We also have a research group for this: Inclusive Education. The only research group exclusively dedicated to our own culture wants to engage the university community at large in an action-oriented study to make sure that inclusive education becomes a natural part of our daily culture. To achieve this we have to focus on accessibility: the intake, progression and graduation of students. During a round-table meeting with Maurice Limmen, students and staff members were excited to share their activities in these areas.
As chair of The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, Maurice oversees various universities of applied sciences and he lobbies the Dutch government on behalf of universities of applied sciences. He believes in the importance of having informal conversations with young people, both students and alumni, but also with staff members, to discuss issues such as inclusivity, accessibility and equal opportunity. During the round of introductions he asked a lot of questions. “I am very eager to organise the universities of applied sciences the best way we can. I want as many students as possible to leave here with a diploma.”
Remove the labels
What is going on? What are the challenges in addressing inclusivity? After the introductions, the participants engage in an open dialogue. Hannah Boekestijn, a junior researcher with the research group Inclusive Education, shares why she brought a ball of rope (see text box). And Rudy van de Beek, an Applied Safety & Security Studies student, talks about his contact with first-year students from a bicultural background. He is participating in the experiment Hang in there!, organised by the student branch of the research group Inclusive Education. Rudy: “These first-year students often doubt themselves. Especially when they have transferred from lower secondary education, like me. Just that label – ‘I came from the lower secondary education’ – can hinder them. So we say: get rid of those labels: believe in yourself.”
Much to gain
Maria Toko is a student member of the General Council. She comes from a theatre background and had a difficult time adjusting to the more fixed educational structure at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. “But I wanted to give myself a chance and chose to pursue European Studies.” In her conversation with Maurice she asks for more attention for international students. Do they get enough attention when it comes to inclusivity? What role do the lecturers play in this? Maria: “Many of the lecturers are mainly focused on delivering their classes. There is still a lot to be done here for inclusive Education.”
The experiments and activities of the research group are closely watched by those involved in the programme H/Overstap. This programme is created to help youth make a successful transition from secondary school and lower secondary education to a university of applied sciences. Lecturer Cindy van Beek explains more about the activities in this programme. “We recently have started to focus on lecturers and asked them how they could make more time available to personally coach students.” Discussion leader Deborah Mevissen emphasises the importance of custom-made programmes. Deborah: “It may seem a lot more expensive. But you can design these programmes quite efficiently.”
Maurice Limmen has more on his plate on this day at THUAS. Before leaving he says “he found it very interesting to talk directly to students and staff members. To experience what it means to engage with these issues on a daily basis.”
Creating inclusive learning environments
Hannah Boekestijn talks about the inclusivity tool kit: “The research group Inclusive Education is using this to study how we can create a more inclusive learning environment by listening to each other and connecting with one another. Who are you? What is your story? How do you connect with others?”
The Chair of The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, Maurice Limmen (far right) talks to students and staff members of THUAS.