To the future Minister of Education,

University College students, in contrast to what people often think, aren’t necessarily the brightest students in society. UC students also aren’t the jack of all trades, master of none some make us out to be. We are hardworking students that can handle a steep learning curve facilitated by intensive and small scale education. What does that exactly entail; how have we been educated for the past seventeen years?

Crucial elements in the UC programme

Key elements in the UC programme are the holistic approach in admissions (motivation are as important as grades), the interdisciplinary elements of the education, the large amount of personal contact, the drive instilled in every student to continuously challenge established concepts, the possibility to shape your own curriculum, looking ‘outside the classroom’ and being in contact with the community around you, and the interactive style of teaching. As Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, member of parliament, said: “That’s exactly what University Colleges should be: it’s not just a place where you pursue academics, it should be a place through which you become deeply connected with the world around you.”

Broad & deep learning

Clear to everyone is that Liberal Arts and Sciences education focuses on broad learning. In contrast to popular thought, Liberal Arts and Sciences students are not thinly educated: at the basis of the Liberal Arts and Sciences lies deep learning. The program is formed like a pyramid: a broad basis in your first years allows you to combine – in an interdisciplinary fashion – fields to gain a deep and thorough understanding of a few subjects in your final years. Students therefore choose one or multiple majors with which they will graduate, giving them the possibility to apply for a variety of master programmes.

University College students are not necessarily those students who excelled in high school or when they started at university. What makes the education excellent is the steep learning curve facilitated by the intensive education. Intensive means mandatory attendance, participation in class and a large amount of self-study. Realizing the full potential of students through hard work, broad interest, discipline and cooperation is what makes University Colleges excellent. All UCs have received the ‘excellent’ predicate from the Keuzegids in the past years.

Negative attention

University Colleges haven’t received only positive attention in the past years. University Colleges have been labelled as ‘expensive day-care centres for rich kids’ in the past. Other students and student organisations view University College students as ‘elitist’ due to the higher tuition fee we pay, our holistic admissions process or our English-speaking customs. We realize undiscovered potential in students instead of only accepting excellent high school students: that is something the ‘excellent’ predicate from the Keuzegids doesn’t confer.

The ‘University College system’ isn’t new. Aristotle already mentioned the concept of Liberal Arts as the education of the free man. The education of the free man should be broad and should include a multitude of sciences. The United States has adopted the Liberal Arts and Sciences system successfully for over two centuries. When are we going to follow?

In the past seventeen years, ten University Colleges have been founded. The trial-time for University Colleges is over: University Colleges are a success. With numerous budget cuts, classrooms exploding with students, the rise of anonymity in university and a lack of general skill development, you need to find a suitable alternative. Don’t look further. The answer is right in front of you.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Seib