UM Education Platform & SSC
Having been selected for an honours programme, have you ever wondered why UM offers these programmes? Why do we invest that many resources into just a select group of students? And have you ever wondered if the selective aspect of such programmes is fair?
In the current climate of striving towards diversity and inclusion, we may ask ourselves what makes a student excellent or talented? Do not all students have a talent they should develop further? And if so, why are excellence (honours) programmes not accessible to everyone? In countries like the Netherlands that have a long-standing egalitarian tradition of education, there are still discussions on excellence programmes’ ‘elitist’ character and their selection procedures. Some universities in the Netherlands have stepped away from excellence/honours altogether, whereas also several universities invest even more in excellence/honours. What should UM do?
In order to take stance in this debate, UM’s EDLAB (Centre for Teaching & Learning) has created a position paper with a revised definition of talent, and the role excellence/honours programmes play in that regard. UM believes that excellence and honours education needs to be preserved, especially in view of UM’s strategic goals related to inclusivity. These programmes assure that the educational institution provides an optimal learning environment for its diverse student population. Excellence programmes target the students that fit the profile of the excellent student, those who do not feel challenged enough by their regular curriculum and want to and are capable of going the extra mile.
While UM believes that all students have talents and competencies that they could and should develop further, differentiation of students and their educational needs is required based on motivation, attitude and academic performance. UM therefore pleads for a differentiation in the offer of talent development programmes and activities, of which excellence/honours programmes are one, in line with a revised definition of talent:
The revised definition, defines talent and talent development as the idea of “mastery”, as the process of trying to be better than no-one other than yourself. Thus adopting the stance, that talent is not solely based on innate factors, so that potentially more students –or at the upper extremity, all students – can become talented.
However, why is talent development so important?
UM has a vital role to play, ensuring each student has the possibility of allowing their talents to come to expression in such a way that students go through their own individual process of growth. Particularly where employers increasingly expect that universities play a major role in developing those soft skills and competencies, the essential human contributions that will produce professional work ready graduates.
Therefore, our university ought to be more focused on educating and shaping competitive graduates that manage to overcome sudden and expected challenges, and have them be a source of development and differentiation. This is where you, our top tier talented students come into play!
There are already many good initiatives at UM, with respect to nurturing talent of students (one of its examples being PREMIUM itself) but it is not always clear to students nor staff what they are. With our university being “scattered” over Maastricht, and organized in a decentralized fashion, there is no actual overview of what activities/programmes exist already that are in line with this new definition of talent, so how do we know we are doing the right thing, or enough to empower our graduates?
The Education Platform- and SSC therefore need the help of bright young minds, to:
- Create an overview of skills/competencies that talent development programmes/initiatives should cultivate.
- Devise a framework to be able to assess if initiatives actually work towards talent development and how.
- Map out the current initiatives that are being offered at UM, and if they are in line with the revised definition of talent and are positioned and branded as such;
- Look for potential gaps in the current offering;
- Cluster and reposition activities/programmes where possible, and eventually give recommendations for designing new offer that fill these gaps.
Maastricht University (UM) has built a solid reputation over the years, and is nowadays considered one of the best young universities in the world. UM consistently earns top positions in various national and international rankings.
Our university wants to offer students from all over the world the opportunity to develop themselves into active, globally oriented citizens and critical thinkers. From a European perspective, UM continuously strives to improve and innovate our education and research. We want to be a driving force behind Euregional and European development and, based on this, make connections with the world in order to address global challenges. Within UM’s vision on education, students can participate in various activities and programmes, for example excellence and honours programmes to nurture their talents and improve their skills for the future job market.
The UM Education Platform, co-client for this project, has an advisory role within UM. The Vice Deans for Education of each faculty have a seat on the Education Platform, which is chaired by the Rector Magnificus. The members of the Education Platform advise the Executive Board on education-related matters that require input from all faculties. The counterpart of the Education Platform is the Research Platform.
UM Student Services Centre (SSC), the other co-client, helps students with a wide range of issues related to studying and student life. This includes topics such as application, registration, tuition fees and diploma recognition, but you can also contact the SSC for legal advice on a study related issue, career advice or advice from a psychologist. In addition to providing students with help, the SSC supports several organisations that organise extracurricular activities, such as the INKOM, the sports council MUSST and Studium Generale.