Educational alliances are a growing phenomenon. This is no wonder: by allowing students to take courses back and forth, institutions can greatly enrich their educational offerings in one fell swoop. But how do you get such an alliance to work? We take a look behind the scenes at Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities.
It must be a bizarre experience for students born in the twenty-first century. Want to take a subject at another university? Then you have to print out a form and submit it to an examination board. After approval, the form has to go to a committee at the other institution. In an envelope! Where do you buy that?
This form of data exchange is not only archaic but also opaque. Regularly, students appear at the front desk, disturbed because everything took much longer than they expected.
This state of affairs is very common in education 'outside the door'. "You really have to be a go-getter," says Marja Verstelle. As quartermaster at the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities (LDE) strategic education alliance, she is familiar with the complications of educational exchange. The three institutions have been offering the possibility of taking minors back and forth since 2015. But that is easier said than done.
"The first hurdle for students," she continues, "is to track down interesting minors at the other institutions' websites. And the second to find out the procedure by which you can register. That does go digital at LDE, fortunately, but the whole process could be much more convenient. It is a miracle that still over 1,300 LDE students a year take a minor at a partner institution."
It marks the need among students. And the exchange is also important for the cooperating universities. "We offer three universities for the price of one," says Verstelle.
We would therefore like to double the number of students taking a minor at one of the partners. But in the current way, this is impossible.
"We would therefore like to double the number of students taking a minor at one of the partners. But in the current way, this is impossible. This is mainly because of the administration at the back end."
In fact, the inconvenience for the students is also experienced by the staff: "It is becoming increasingly difficult for the people behind the scenes who have to manually create all the guest accounts, put registrations into systems and you name it. Everything based on exchanged Excel sheets and PDFs. It's just not doable anymore in terms of volume."
LDE students and staff have one advantage: they are not dependent on exam boards that have to approve external minors. Verstelle explains: "Within LDE, we made the deal that all minors are approved in terms of level and quality in advance by the examination committees. That also saves those committees an enormous amount of work. We have agreed: what is good for a Leiden student is also good for a Delft or Rotterdam student."
We have agreed: what is good for a Leiden student is also good for a Delft or Rotterdam student."
Furthermore, we reserve 33% of the places in a minor for each other's students. While it is enormously labour-intensive to arrange that, it is a great advantage for students."
Text: Aad van de Wijngaart