Student Mobility pilot


Student Mobility pilot from the Flexibilisation zone

Students must be able to register for courses at other institutions at the click of a button. That is one of the ambitions of the Flexible education zone. To achieve this ambition, the zone is currently working on the Student Mobility pilot. Read about it in this interview with team leader Ulrike Wild.

In the pilot, the zone is collaborating with SURF, that designs and develops the technical infrastructure for the pilot. The three universities participating are Utrecht University, Wageningen University & Research and Eindhoven University of Technology, where from 2021 students can register for the courses the universities jointly make available for the pilot. From that moment on, WUR students can register for a course at TU/e or UU with the click of a button, and vice versa. In due course, this should be possible at all higher education institutions in The Netherlands.

The project is led by Ulrike Wild, one of the leaders of the Flexible education zone. We spoke with Ulrike about setting up the pilot, her expectations for students, and what it will bring to higher education in The Netherlands.

What do we achieve with the Student Mobility pilot?

Ulrike: “With the pilot, we’re realising concepts we have been talking about for a long time in higher education. We think that in the future it’ll no longer be self-evident that a student will only study at one institution, as we also illustrate in our student track “Off the beaten track”. We expect it to become the norm for students to also follow courses and study units at other institutions. This is already possible, but it presents an enormous administrative challenge. We want to make it easier for them.”

“With the pilot, we’re realising concepts that we have been talking about for a long time in higher education”

Facilitating student mobility does pose some challenges. Ulrike explains: “Enabling this mobility for students requires a different national infrastructure and a different way of offering education. You don’t just do that one day to the next. That’s why we’re starting the pilot in a small alliance of three universities. This can be scaled up later to allow more institutions to participate and eventually we want to use the infrastructure nationwide. ”

You are currently setting up the pilot. Are there things you are already running into?

Ulrike: “We’re running into everything, so to say, in the sense that it requires quite a bit of rethinking from higher education and institutions when it comes to practical matters and the current infrastructure. We want to change how student data is managed nationally, but you don’t do that in one go. We have to start developing a new system while the old one is still in use. In order to realise these changes, we have to start small with implementation and testing. And of course, we work together with existing initiatives and institutions that already work with student data and infrastructure.”

But there are also strokes of good fortune. Ulrike: “Against our expectations, the different interpretation of courses by institutions appears to be less of a problem than we anticipated. If you open a course to students from other institutions, you also need to organise this in such a way that students can study independent of place and time. It’s not convenient for UU students who live in Utrecht to travel to WUR five times a week. The COVID-19 crisis has already changed our thinking about place and time-independent study, so we expect fewer problems with it.”

What will the pilot look like for the students of the three universities in 2021?

Ulrike: “In this start-up phase, we’re looking for courses in which collaboration is logical and in which students from the three institutions could be interested. This means that we compile a portfolio with subjects that complement each other. Think, for example, of subjects related to medicine and technology, or law and nature policy.”

How does this advance higher education in The Netherlands?

Ulrike: “We have to wait and see whether students will actually use the opportunity to follow courses at other institutions. But when I look at the success of the edX Remote Access programme, I’m optimistic about this. Students can now take MOOCs from a large number of edX partners for free. There’s a lot of interest, especially in the MOOCs on data science. These are courses that we don’t offer ourselves and this way to students still have access.”

This will offer everyone the opportunity to put together an even more personal graduation programme.

- Ulrike Wild

Ultimately, the infrastructure and mobility possibilities must make studying for students in the Netherlands even more personalised. Ulrike: “It offers students more student mobility and will soon offer everyone the opportunity to put together an even more personal graduation programme.”

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