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Bachelor/Master system at Utrecht University. Professor Hans van Himbergen Vice-rector International Educational Affairs Utrecht University, the Netherlands 7 April 2003. The Netherlands. Utrecht. 400 km. PhD. master 1-2 years. bachelor 3 years years. HBO. bachelor 3 years.

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bachelor master system at utrecht university

Bachelor/Master system at Utrecht University

Professor Hans van Himbergen

Vice-rector International Educational Affairs

Utrecht University, the Netherlands

7 April 2003


400 km



1-2 years


3 years years



3 years


4 years


4 years






3 years



2 years

1 year

1 year

Basic general secondary education

3 years

Primary education

(age 4-12) 8 years


Dutch Educational System

Utrecht University
  • Type Research university
  • Founded 1636
  • Bachelor programmes 48
  • Master programmes 195
  • Research schools 21
  • Top research schools 4
  • PhD theses 390
  • Staff (fte) 5.593
  • Students 22.400
  • PhD students 920
  • Budget (US$) 550.000.000
    • 75% public
why change our academic education 1
Why change our academic education (1)?
  • Number of students has grown dramatically since the mid seventies
  • Student’s talents, interests and ambitions are diverse and not settled when they enter the university
  • Long discussions about success rates (with government) and suitability (with ‘employers’) of education
  • Previous efforts Dutch government: reform = cost containment universities without much regard for educational demands
  • Previous efforts UU: differentiation leads towards more different tracks, not towards flexibility for students
  • Both general academic and research skills call for interactive capabilities in an inter/multidisciplinary setting
why change our academic education 2
Why change our academic education (2)?
  • Cater to the interest in international experience among students, both our own and from abroad
  • Need to maintain/increase the international profile of the university’s research activities
  • Shortage of potential students in some fields
  • Need to attract enough young academic potential in an internationally competitive environment
old wine in new bottles
Old wine in new bottles?

With the introduction of the Bachelor/Master system, Utrecht University is seizing the opportunity to implement real innovation in its education.

Key characteristics:

  • Bachelor’s degree programme allows students considerable individual freedom of choice and emphasises general academic skills
  • Focus on the mutual commitment of students and the University
  • Intensive academic counselling
  • Wide choice of research- or profession-oriented Master’s degree programmes (including programmes taught in English)
two phases each with its own set of objectives
Two phases, each with its own set of objectives

Bachelor’s degree programme

  • Academic skills (regardless of specific content)
  • Gradual focus on a more specific/discipline-oriented interest
  • Clarification of possible career ambitions

Master’s degree programme

Specialisation with a view to:

  • Scientific research
  • Professional career at academic level
two phases each with its own teaching model
Two phases, each with its own teaching model

The Bachelor’s degree programme focuses on expression and development of the student’s talent, interest and ambition:

  • Restricted choice within context of the Major
  • Unrestricted choice in optional course profile

The Master’s degree programme is mainly expertise-driven

  • Programmes with UU profile
  • Restricted admission
  • Tailored to employment profiles
structure of bachelor s degree programme
Structure of Bachelor’s degree programme
  • Major(main subject, up to 75% of programme)
    • Compulsory Major course modules
    • Optional Major course modules
  • Optional course profile(at least 25% of programme)
    • Chosen from entire range of courses offered by Utrecht University
    • Either additional course modules within the Major
    • Or course modules outside the Major that match the student’s ambitions and interests
    • Or a Minor

180 ECTS



)135 ECTS





related subjects

standard 105 ECTS

Max. 75


uniform for all major students,


65 ECTS discipline related optional courses

approx. 30 ECTS

Academic theories and methodologies

Max. 15


compulsory, min. 7.5


at level 2 or 3

At least 45 ECTS

Optional course profile

( student)

Min. 15


at level 2, if Minor at least 7.5



level 3

Academic development portfolio

Bachelor degree requirements

At least 45 ECTS at level 3


Flux out

Flux in


Master degree

from highschool



Optional course profile


of bachelor



flux in






= ‘


teaching the old situation
Teaching: the old situation
  • In spite of a single student records system (OSIRIS), students were unable to access information about courses in other departments
  • 8 different timetables, many different course lengths and starting dates
  • Enormous differences in weighting of course modules
  • Tendency for departments to downgrade credits awarded by other departments
university wide teaching framework
University-wide teaching framework
  • Uniform academic year with four teaching periods, starting around 1 Sept, 15 Nov, 1 Feb and 15 April.
  • Standard size of course modules: 7.5 ECTS
  • Bachelor course modules at 3 levels:

(1) Introductory, (2) Intermediate, (3) Advanced

  • Prerequisites formulated for all course modules
  • All Bachelor course modules listed in online University Course Catalogue
  • Standardised enrolment procedure for all course modules
internal budget and funding policy
Internal budget and funding policy
  • Budget
    • One single rate for teaching
    • Financing based on duration of programme:
      • Bachelor 3 years
      • Master 1 or 2 years
    • Reduction of effects of delays
  • Funding
    • Simple, effective funding of courses
    • Funding of academic counselling
undergraduate graduate research phd
Undergraduate – Graduate – Research/PhD

Division of responsibilities for

  • Undergraduate phase (Majors and academic development)
  • Graduate phase (programme and admission of students to Master’s degree programmes)
  • Research and PhD programme

The Dean decides how much time each employee devotes to:

  • Undergraduate teaching
  • Graduate teaching
  • Research and PhD programme
undergraduate programme roles and responsibilities
Undergraduate programme: roles and responsibilities

The University

Provides context for and monitors:

  • Educational framework
  • Level and nature of academic development
  • Quality and quality control
  • Induction of first-year students
  • Academic counselling


  • Course modules
  • Majors
  • Minors
Undergraduate programme: roles and responsibilities

Deans are responsible for:

  • Commissioning departments to provide teaching and approving Major/Minor requirements
  • Ensuring the quality of the teaching staff
undergraduate programme roles and responsibilities1
Undergraduate programme: roles and responsibilities

Departments are responsible for:

  • The induction and academic counselling of Major students
  • Offering course modules for Major students
  • Offering a curriculum for academic development
  • Determining compulsory component of Majors
  • Offering any course modules for non-Major students
  • Stipulating what constitutes a Minor within their field of competence
  • Awarding Bachelor’s degrees in accordance with university requirements
  • Arranging quality control
undergraduate programme roles and responsibilities2
Undergraduate programme: roles and responsibilities

Teaching staff are responsible for:

  • Participating in the general counselling activities of their department, including the induction of first-year students
  • Developing course modules in such a way that students who take part in accordance with the indicated guidelines can pass the module
  • Teaching the course modules as described
  • Stating sufficiently clearly in the course module descriptions what is required to pass the module
  • Offering students adequate guidance both within and outside timetabled activities
  • Notifying students of their final mark within two weeks of the end of any course module
undergraduate programme roles and responsibilities3
Undergraduate programme: roles and responsibilities

Students are responsible for:

  • Enrolling at the department of their initial choice of Major
  • Establishing their definitive choice of Major within a year
  • Choosing undergraduate subjects that will best equip them for their choice of graduate programme
  • Enrolling in course modules and actively participating in coursework and assessment
graduate programme roles and responsibilities
Graduate programme: roles and responsibilities

The Graduate School is responsible for

  • Supervising students (including with regard to future careers)
  • Offering degree programmes that will lead to Master’s degrees
  • Defining the admission criteria
  • Selecting students
  • Arranging quality control
graduate programme roles and responsibilities1
Graduate programme: roles and responsibilities

The deans (one or more) are responsible for:

  • Determining departmental capacity for programmes
  • Setting final degree requirements
  • Ensuring quality of teaching staff
  • Ensuring students are adequately informed about options within the graduate programme
  • Arranging external accreditation

The University is responsible for:

  • Certifying the programmes
  • Certifying the admission procedures
  • Ensuring there is adequate departmental capacity
messages to the chilean rectors
Messages to the Chilean rectors:
  • Universities should take the lead when considering major changes in higher education
  • Cherish the ambitions of your prospective students, rather than your own notions of what a ‘programme of education’ should look like
  • Involve all essential parties from the outset in the process of designing any major changes
  • Make parties responsible for those parts of the educational process that they can really control; don’t hold them accountable for parts of the process that they cannot directly influence.