Use of Quality Funds (Faculty of Science)
Financial funds for investing in quality of education
Because of the introduction of the student loan system in the Netherlands, financial funds became available to enhance the quality of higher education. In 2019 the Faculty of Science received these Quality Funds and invested the majority in small-scale and more intensive education. The remaining financial funds are used to improve student guidance.
You can read about the improvement plans in the tabs below. Some of these plans have been finished and implemented, some are still being worked on.
More people, more focus on learning process
The Faculty of Science is growing and wants to continue to excel in education. But small-scale and intensive education is coming under pressure with the growth in student numbers. By investing in more people, we free up lecturers to devote more attention to the learning process of students and thus to better education. Moreover, more support eases the perceived workload of lecturers.
Super Teaching Assistants
An example of extra support are the Super Teaching Assistants (STAs). These are PhD candidates (AIOs) and postdocs who receive extra time for teaching activities and whose contract is extended. The intention is that these STAs receive a teaching certificate at the end of their appointment.
New courses and new teaching materials
In order to catch up with the developments in society and to prepare our students for the industry and/or a career in research, our education must always keep moving forward. That is why we are not only investing in more people, but also in educational innovation.
The plans differ from department to department, but in most cases, investments are made in the development of new courses and the adaptation of a number of existing courses. Several departments are working on new curricula that meet the demands of the research field and/or professional field.
In addition, new teaching and learning materials and didactics are being developed in order to support the student’s different learning styles. The goal is an improved learning efficiency and a better learning experience. Moreover, innovations in learning styles and teaching materials will give the skills of lecturers an extra boost.
View plans per department:
Curious about the plans of your department? Click on the tabs below to view the plans per department:
The Quality Funds go to the Bachelor's programmes Informatiekunde and Informatica as well as the Master's programmes in Game & Media Technology, Computing Science, Business Informatics, Human Computer Interaction, the Master's programme in Artificial Intelligence and, in the near future, the Master Applied Data Science.
Within the Bachelor's programmes the focus will be on:
- Renewing curricula and study paths: new curricula in academic skills and artificial intelligence (informatica), improvements of specific learning lines (informatiekunde), scientific research methods and the development of the study path ‘Kennis en Data Analytics’ (Informatiekunde)
- Renewal of courses (e.g. computerarchitectuur & Netwerken, Logica voor informatica)
- Revision of introduction project. A pilot took place with a revised set-up of the Introduction Project for the Gametechnology target group (Informatica)
- Inventory of learning goals and topics. The first step in the standardisation of the registration of current course information has taken place within Osiris (Informatiekunde, Informatica); evaluation of core curriculum information science has been started.
Within the various Master's programmes, the focus will be on:
- Renewing and/or developing a total of ten courses. Three courses for COSC, one for GMT, three for AI, two for HCI and one for MBI.
- Setting up a Human-Centred Computing Lab (RobotLab).
- Renewal of Motion Capture and Virtual Reality Lab.
- Research valuation and improvement of the Business Informatics programme.
For the Bachelor Biologie, the Department has used the Quality Funds as follows:
- A lecturer in Organismal Biology has been appointed for the Bachelor Biology. Several courses have been revised, including Evolutionary Developmental Biology. Innovative working methods have also been introduced in the courses.
- Extension of the appointment coordinator of the study path Ontwikkelingsbiologie. Additional digital modules have been developed for Ontwikkelingsbiologie level 2 and other teaching methods have been deployed.
- Appointment of a lecturer in job market orientation and tutoring.
- Recruitment of three Super Teaching Assistants (STAs). They will help develop and teach a level 3 biotechnology course and in other courses to teach in smaller groups.
The Department of Biology offers several Master's programmes. The programmes are BioInformatics and BioComplexity, Environmental Biology, BioInspired Innovation and Science and Business Management.
The plans for the master programme's:
- A new master's programme has been set up: BioInformatics and BioComplexity. A coordinator and lecturer have been appointed.
- An additional profile (Bioinformatics profile) has been added to all the master's programmes.
- Two courses have been developed for this and three are being improved.
- Development of two courses and redesign of two other courses, including the course Introduction to R for students of the Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS).
The Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences has made several plans for the Pharmacy bachelor's programme including College of Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPS), the master's programmes Pharmacy and Drug Innovation:
- Redesign of various courses for the bachelor's and master's programmes. These include the digitalisation of courses.
- Revision of the entire CPS curriculum
- Introduction of study paths in the Drug Innovation curriculum
- Improvement of feedback during internships in the master of pharmacy.
- Recruitment of five junior lecturers. They will carry out research and integrate their research findings into their education.
- Setting up a skills lab where students can practise specific lab skills on top of their regular education.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy has made and partly already implemented several plans that are beneficial to the Bachelor Natuur- en Sterrenkunde and Master’s programmes in Theoretical Physics, Experimental Physics and Climate Physics.
- Appointment of several Super Teaching Assistants (STAs) in both the bachelor and the master programmes. They provide support in the courses: Statistical Physics, Classical Mechanics, Waves and Optics (Golven en Optica), Electromagnetism and Structure of Matter (bachelor), Statistical Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Field Theory and Statistics Field Theory (THPH), new course in Particle Physics and Experiment Design (EXPH), Dynamical Meteorology (CLPH).
- Employment of a teacher for secondary education
- There will be a new course in Biophysics in the bachelor Natuur- en Sterrenkunde in collaboration with the international Molecular and Biophysical Life Science programme, the design of which will be supervised by an STA.
The Department of Chemistry has made several plans that benefit the Bachelor Chemistry, the MLS study path, the master's programme of Nanomaterials Science, the master's programme of Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences and in the near future the Bachelor MBLS.
- Renewal and development of courses and practicals, investing in teaching and lab materials and digital resources (e.g. knowledge clips, software, lab equipment, molecule construction boxes)
- Appointment of student assistants (7) to improve existing lesson materials, tutorials and practicals, to make knowledge clips, to deliver support during tutorials sessions and to correct assignments
- Appointment of a teacher for the Chemistry in Context course that puts parts of the curriculum in a more social/ethical context at bachelor's and master's level
- Realisation of a digital practical in a new course
- Addition of a 'refresher' e-module in mathematics and development of a new course 'Nonequilibrium systems and transport phenomena' for the master's programme Nanomaterials Science
- Appointment of an education assistant in the master's programme Molecular and Cellular Life Science to provide more time for the master's programme coordinator in guiding master's students
The Department of Mathematics has made several plans that benefit the Bachelor Mathematics and the Master Mathematical Sciences.
The Bachelor Mathematics has:
- Hired two junior lecturers for tutorials
- Appointed two lecturers from the Hogeschool Utrecht (HU) for teaching (bij Inleiding Groepen en Ringen en Communiceren in de Wiskunde)
- Extended the appointments of student assistants by 50% for the tutorials during the pandemic. These students help in the coordination of online/hybrid education and the development of new testing and teaching methods. They also give students extra support in certain subjects and provide intensive guidance to tutor groups;
- Purchased tablets for the online tutorials.
- Investment in a blended learning platform
- Developed new course material for a number of bachelor subjects
- Helping students at improving their academic skills
The Master Mathematical Sciences has:
- Offered additional small-scale local courses, such as Categories and Topology.
The Master and Minor History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) are part of the Freudenthal Instituut (FI). The Quality Funds are invested in:
- Hiring of two external lecturers (journalists) for the course Investigative Journalism;
- Hiring of a teaching assistant (PhD) for increasing the contact hours, improving in-depth discussions for the course History of the Humanities;
- Development of hands-on workshops to better introduce students with a non-science bachelor background to research practices in natural sciences;
- Innovation of teaching material in master courses:Philosophy of Space and Time and The Quantum World, Foundations of Statistical Mechanics;
- Evaluation of the entire HPS curriculum from the perspective of diversity and inclusivity.
- Innovation of teaching material in bachelor courses:
- Bachelor minor Geschiedenis en Filosofie van de Natuurwetenschappen: development of English teaching material
Our students in the representative advisory bodies indicated that they would like the opportunity to meet with the study advisors more frequently. In order to realise this, four additional student advisors have been appointed. Besides the regular study advisor work, these employees focus on student welfare, the improvement of the tutoring system, labour market orientation, internationalisation, the visibility of the study advisors and study progress monitoring.
Below, we summarise what has been/is being improved for each focus area:
For student welfare, study advisors focus on 3 themes:
- Study pressure and stress
- Social safety and inclusiveness
- Strengthening resilience and stress management
Actions theme 1 (Study pressure and stress)
At policy level, it is being investigated how the stress experienced by students can be reduced. One option being considered is the incorporation of moments of rest within the curriculum. An example of this is the initiative of the Physics Department, which will experiment with a lecture-free week in 2021 and 2022.
Actions theme 2 (Social safety and inclusiveness)
Theme 2 (social safety and inclusiveness) focuses on examining the study programme cultures. To what extent do students feel welcome within the study programme and is it easy to ask for help? This theme has a broader scope than just the study programmes. In 2021, for example, a signalling consultation on social safety was set up within the faculty, led by the dean of the Faculty of Science. The aim of the signaling consultation is to better pick-up signals from students and employees to increase social safety. One student advisor takes part in this consultation. Furthermore, work has been done in improving communication on the student website, so that it is clear to students where they can go in case of problems.
Actions theme 3 (Strengthening resilience and stress management)
Several workshops focusing on dealing with stress have been offered. The plan is to expand the training programme with workshops on dealing with performance pressure, strengthening resilience and learning to cooperate optimally with the thesis supervisor.
In addition, seven study groups were set up in 2020 with the aim of offering students structure and social contacts at a time of online education. Within the Faculty of Science, a survey was also carried out to investigate the effect the pandemic had on student welfare. The results and recommendations arising from this survey were shared with the programme directors.
Finally, active cooperation between staff members concerned with student welfare at the central and faculty level has been established. This cooperation led, for example, to a faculty contribution during the Wellbeing Week and to the workshop 'Coping with Stress' being offered specifically to science students. The faculty expects to reap more benefits from this cooperation in the future.
Study progress monitoring
To make sure that students receive the right guidance more quickly, student advisors contact students more often on their own initiative. The student advisors do this according to a set of criteria (for example, if a student earned less than half of the possible number EC within six months). Students who seem to be progressing smoothly with their studies are only informed of the available counselling services (this may differ per study programme).
Study progress monitoring was already in place, but in 2021 it was investigated how this could be done more efficiently. By making better use of the data available in Osiris, student advisors can now monitor students more quickly and more frequently. Without this being at the expense of direct student guidance.
Better visibility of study advisors
More student advisors also means more visibility. All study advisors within the faculty are present during introductions, open days and other (digital) events. Many of the student advisors are involved in giving workshops, training sessions and study groups. It is also easy to make appointments via an online agenda (both online and, when corona measures allow, on-site), and the student advisors can be found on the student website. With the increased and improved visibility, the student advisors hope that the threshold to approach them will be lowered and that they will be easier to find.
In 2020, extensive research was done on the tutoring system (study & career coaching) and advice was provided on the success factors and points for improvement were given. A plan was made for the tutoring system and improvements were made in the student’s manuals. A concrete result is that the tutoring system is now better structured; each phase of the study requires different guidance, in the first phase, for example, student mentors are very important. This means that the tutoring needs of students in each phase of their studies (from student to graduate) are better met.
Preparing for the job market
Part of the Quality Funds has been spent on facilitating the transition to the job market. Last year we started to improve the integration of Career Services workshops (e.g. CV/motivation letter and LinkedIn) into the curriculum of both the bachelor’s and master’s programme of Pharmacy. The student evaluations of this workshop were very positive, so we would like to continue this next year.
Improved ‘Warm Welcome’
For international students, the faculty's Warm Welcome has been improved. The faculty introduction is better attuned to the programme that the university offers centrally, so that the programmes complement each other better. There is also more attention for the soft landing of the international student and the settle in phase after the programme kicks off. For example, a buddy programme for the new bachelor Molecular and Biophysical Life Sciences (MBLS) has been set up, in which Dutch students are paired with international students. In addition, lecturers have followed a training focusing on 'the international classroom'. During the introduction week, the Graduate School of Natural Sciences (GSNS) currently offers the workshop 'Studying in The Netherlands, the Dutch approach', which prepares internationals for the Dutch culture and education system. This pilot was well received and will be extended to the master programmes within the Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS) in 2022.
Are students actively involved with the improvement plans?
Of course. Since 2018, the student members of the Faculty Council and Education (Advisory) Committees have been actively involved in thinking about the improvement plans. The improvement plans are based on students' own ideas and additions from lecturers. This ensures that the Quality Funds are spent in an effective and well-considered way.
Annual monitoring progress
The departments report annually on how the Quality Funds are spent. The Education Council and Education (Advisory) Committees comment on these reports and are consulted if plans change due to circumstances.
The faculty report is drawn up with delegates from the Graduate Schools (usually the chairs from the Education Committees) and the Faculty Council (usually students) advising the Dean on progress. Each year, the Executive Board receives a faculty progress report including a financial justification so that they can incorporate this information in their annual report.
Lastly, like other courses, courses developed from Quality Funds are evaluated and fine-tuned.