Sometimes, we get curious about a topic or problem the we encounter briefly in a course or in the world generally, and wish we could spend dedicated time teasing it out, to come to a deeper understanding of it.

Do you have a topic that you'd like to explore, with a motivated group of peers, and with experts in the field? Do you like the idea of determining what you learn, how you learn it, and who will tell you about it? If so, then this course may be for you.

The Honours Seminar course allows you to design your own course and steer your own learning. You work together in small groups of about six to ten students, inviting experts in the field to come and talk with you on your topic, and you read and write extensively on it. You have a UCU topic supervisor assigned to your group for consultation, but you are the ones in charge!

Anyone can propose a course topic, but the course outline is written by all group members in the semester preceding the one in which the course runs, so finding your group, and planning in advance is important!

Previous topics have included:

  • Postcolonialism in Independent Africa. A critical approach to African studies of development, culture and politics. - Spring 2018, Supervisors: Dr. Rhoda Woets and Dr. Corey Wright. See here for the students' self-evaluation.
  • Enlightenment Revisited - Critical Approaches to Rationality, Individuality, and Liberty – Spring 2017, Supervisors: Dr. Gaetano Fiorin and Dr. Gerard van der Ree
  • Narratives of the Everyday - Spring 2016. Supervisors: Dr. Gaetano Fiorin, Dr. Gerard van der Ree, Dr. Longina Jakubowska: look here for an impression.
  • Sister Republics: The Netherlands and America - Spring 2016. Supervisors: Prof. dr. James Kennedy, Dr. Rosemary Orr
  • Order, Chaos, and Complexity - Spring 2015. Supervisors: Dr. Floris van der Burg, Dr. Anton van de Ven
  • Engaging the Reader - Spring 2015, Supervisors: Dr. Birgit Kaiser, Prof. dr. Peter de Voogd
  • Sustainable Society - Spring 2015, Supervisors Prof. dr. R.J.F.M. van der Vaart, Denise de Ridder, Sarah Denie
  • The United States and its Place in the World after 1945 - Spring 2014, Supervisors: Dr. A.M. Van der Linden, Dr. K. Van der Wijngaart

And also:
Memory (with plasticity of the brain as a focus), Quantum Mechanics: the Physics and Philosophy crossover, Modern East Asia, Complex Network Dynamics, Critical Theory, Computational Linguistics, Consciousness and the Brain, the Financial Crisis, and the Role of History in Art.

Students from these courses have been inspired to follow a Masters or write a PhD thesis on the topic that they explored in this course.

Ideally, students are in their senior year when they follow this course. Here are the guideline criteria:

  • minimally 60 EC
  • methodology requirements completed
  • minimally three level 2 courses at the time of application for the course
  • minimally one complete track before the semester in which the course runs
  • GPA is circa 3.3 or higher

The course does not count for any graduation requirement. It must be extra to all course requirements, meaning that students must complete 180ECs as well as this course on graduation.

"We ran a UCU honours course called "Engaging the Reader" for a semester. The course focused on literature that was provocative, in the broad sense of the word - texts that made the reader work to understand what was going on. Works discussed ranged from the ever-engaging magical realists (i.e. Marquez and Murakami) to the rebels of the Beat Generation (Kerouac, Burroughs) and finally the most recent body of literature so vaguely described as postmodern. Though the course came with a heavy workload, it was truly a unique experience. We learned a great deal from having to design a course from scratch, setting our own deadlines and test criteria and then running that same course from beginning to end. Above all, I believe our particular course theme taught us what interdisciplinarity really means: that scholars of physics, mathematics, philosophy, performing arts, museum studies and linguistics can have incredibly fruitful discussions by 'meeting in the middle' over a work of literature." -Tomas Buitendijk, class of 2015

"My personal experience with the honours course was a seminar in 2015 titled Order, Chaos, and Complexity. We looked at the interdisciplinary and extremely diverse field of complex systems science, which deals with systems that consist of many parts that all interact with each other in way or another, usually in a rather chaotic way. In fact, many systems studied by science today can be seen as complex systems, such as the economy, the brain, social circles, and the weather. But what exactly is a complex system? How is this different from other, reductionist scientific views? And how can we deal with the complexity of these systems and effectively and efficiently study them? These were some of the questions we tried to answer during the seminar. The first part of the seminar was entirely devoted to guest lectures by experts in the field, who all worked on complex systems, but on very diverse fields: mathematics, sociology, biology, and others. The chance to interact with established researchers was one aspect of the seminar that I valued immensely, along with gaining significant experience in contacting and inviting these people. The second part of the seminar was devoted to a personal project, supervised again by experienced academics from the field. In these projects, we were fully able to pursue our own topic of interest and to learn as much as we could from our supervisors. I wrote my project in cancer biology and complex systems, a field extremely relevant in diagnosing, observing, and treating cancer in these modern times. I think the skills and experiences gained from interacting with these experts, as well as knowledge and insights gained from the seminar itself will aid me tremendously in the future." -Tim Coorens, class of 2015

If you are up for a challenge and you are enthusiastic about designing your own interdisciplinary course with a group of like-minded peers

  • Look at the short description of the Student Led Honours Course UCINTHON32 which will take place each Spring semester
  • Check if this is something you may do (check requirements) and want to do; find other students (3 or more students) who are interested in the same topic and apply for it in two steps:
  • Step 1. Anytime of the year before midnight October 1st fill in this Provisional Outline form and send it via e-mail to the Honours Director. Make sure you answer all points below in your provisional outline:
    1. What is the topic and the provisional title of the student led honours course you and your group want to organize?
    2. From the framework and methodology of what disciplines and in what way(s) are you going to research your selected topic? Make the interdisciplinary dimension evident. (Show that your topic –or the methodology you use to approach the topic– is not covered in a UCU course).
    3. Include an approximate budget (think of attending a conference, a play, visiting a museum, a performance, thanking guest speakers with book, token or wine; snack and drinks for the final symposium);
    4. the names of the students who intend participate,
    5. possible course supervisors,
    6. essay supervisors,
    7. guest speakers and
    8. grading criteria.

    At this point your outline does NOT need to include: the timeline of lectures, meetings, final symposium; deadline for final paper (if you have ideas about any of the above, mention them).

    The Honours Director will review your Provisional Outline and let you know whether your course has been accepted, and possibly suggest amendments towards the revised outline, due on (see step 2.)

  • Step 2. The Friday before the Fall break send your Personal Application form; part of which is the Revised Outline. The Honours Director will submit this revised outline with the name of the selected applicants for approval to the Board of Studies. [This form can also be used after this deadline but before pre-registration deadline by students who have been ‘recruited’ by participants in a INTHON32 group already approved by the Honours Director and the BoS]
  • During the midterm meetings and before preregistration deadline (Thursday of the 3rd week after the Fall break) we hope to communicate to all involved if the Board of Studies has given their (conditional) approval to your topic and if you, as a student, have been selected for participation in the course. Selected students can be enrolled in the INTHON32 as one of their 4 courses before the end of the midterm meetings and they can proceed to ‘recruit’ other students for their INTHON32 group.
  • The students of INTHON32 group will need to e-mail their definitive outline to the Honours Director before the start of the Spring semester (unless the BoS wants a revised outline earlier), which will need to include (besides all points mentioned in the Provisional and Revised Outline) the timeline of lectures; of the meetings; the date of final symposium (find a date when the Honours Director can be present); deadline for final paper.
    • Do not hesitate to send questions to the Honours Director and/or to ask her for an informal meeting at any time!