Onderzoek naar de werking van het Sirius Programma om excellentie in het hoger onderwijs te bevorderen

The project ‘Study into the impact of the Sirius Programme to stimulate excellence in higher education’ was a policy evaluation study implemented by the University of Maastricht (ROA), the Radboud University in Nijmegen (ITS, now KBA) and CHEPS on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) of the Netherlands that ran in 2014–2015.

In 2008–2014 the Ministry of OCW subsidised in total 20 Dutch higher education institutions to experiment with excellence programmes, i.e. approaches to diversify education within study programmes to challenge highly-talented students more than normally. In the transition to institutionally-funded, sustainable excellence programmes, OCW commissioned ROA, ITS and CHEPS to evaluate the Sirius Programme.

The main research questions included:

  • What types of students participate in excellence programmes?
  • What do participating students learn in excellence programmes over and above regular education?
  • What are benefits for participating students (on the labour market)?
  • What are costs and benefits of excellence programmes, in particular, how do excellence programmes affect the wider higher education institutions and their regular education?

The study concluded that there is a wide variety of excellence programmes across the universities and universities of applied sciences that participated in the Sirius Programme. Participating students tended to be highly-motivated, ambitious persons in search for deepening or broadening their knowledge, skills and competences. Some cognitive and social skills of participants on average exceeded those of non-participants. Self-assessments showed positive influence of participation in excellence programmes, although objective tests rather correlated with other, personal factors of students.

Outside higher education institutions, excellence programmes were hardly known, so that external impacts remained negligible, although maybe employers would value the higher competencies of participants per se.

Costs of excellence programmes exceeded those of regular study programmes, though precise figures could not be obtained. Excellence programmes were viewed as sandboxes for experimenting with new educational approaches, and were retained by all institutions that participated in the Sirius Programme.

The project report was published (in Dutch) as: Het beste uit studenten.

As a more in-depth follow-up, the project partners ROA, KBA and CHEPS acquired an NRO grant to study the same research questions over a longer period of time; see the HoRES project.

Contact persons at CHEPS for the Sirius Evaluation are Renze Kolster and Don F. Westerheijden.