In November and December of last year, the University of Twente was visited by a committee from the NVAO. These visits were aimed at the institutional quality assurance audit for educational quality assurance (ITK), as well as for the assessment of the plans for the Quality Agreements that have been requested by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.
During five days, the committee spoke with various groups within the university (staff members and students) about a wide range of topics that are important to the quality of education at the University of Twente. The committee members were very positive about the outcomes of the conversations, and informally indicated that the university had more than met the standards relating to education and educational quality. Within the framework of the ITK, the committee will compile a report of findings and recommendations to be submitted to the NVAO. Based on this report, the NVAO will take an official decision concerning whether the university has passed the institutional quality assurance audit for 2019 (as in 2013). For the Quality Agreements, the NVAO will approve only the text of the report, with the final decision resting with the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.
The committee characterises the UT as a fine organisation, in which the ‘corporate spirit’ is clearly felt. The passion for education can be seen everywhere. The committee perceived a culture of permanent improvement, and thus a favourable quality culture. The committee explicitly reported having held frank conversations with honest, hard-working and committed staff members and students.
According to the committee, the UT has embraced the full scope of the Twente Educational Model (TOM). Considerable consensus with regard to the model is ingrained throughout the university. The committee also observes that the environment and the professional field are strongly involved in the educational programmes. Entrepreneurship is evident throughout the entire university.
The vision on internationalisation is clear, and the committee understands the choice for teaching in English. The committee nevertheless recommends preserving space for the Dutch language.
There is a clear vision on growth in student numbers, as well as on the limits of growth. The committee recommends identifying tools that can be used to keep growth within these boundaries, in cooperation with the Ministry.
The examination and assessment policy is well documented, allowing considerable freedom for educational programmes.
Finally, the committee notes that the university has a fine talent policy for staff members, and it advocates having the courage to promote the truly good performing teachers to the position of professor.
The UT is working on the further development of the Twente Educational Model to realise ‘TOM 2.0’. The committee regards this as an excellent process. The philosophy of ‘High Tech, Human Touch’ is explicitly tangible, although the committee does remark that there is still room for increasing the involvement of stakeholders.
The committee notes that lecturers are quite approachable for students, and they are impressed by the range of professional-development options for teaching staff.
The committee refers to the introduction of the faculty boards as a good step, further noting that the University Education Committee (UC-ED) is in need of attention, given that it is an advisory board that, in practice, is sometimes seen as a decision-making body. The committee regards the addition of a study advisor to the Examination Board as a good idea that is in the interest of students.
With regard to workload, the university addressed the problem in an early stage. There is an awareness that workload is a ‘many-headed monster’. Although the approach will not lead directly to a reduction in the workload, the committee does see that the university is on the right track in this regard.
Finally, the committee notes that the UT should take action to address the issue of formative testing.
The committee observes a continuous line of improvement in the quality of education, with a broad range of monitoring instruments. In the opinion of the committee, the university is doing well with regard to involving the professional field in education. With regard to the MISUT management-information system, the committee also recommends the addition of qualitative criteria.
Finally, the committee appreciates the university’s courage in listing clear key issues in the evaluation report for the Twente Education Model (TOM).
The committee observes that development is taking place in all areas, and that there is explicit interplay between lecturers and students throughout the university in this regard. The committee expresses considerable respect for the manner in which the university’s new mission, vision and strategy—SHAPING2030—were developed, with substantial involvement from the university community. It was a true bottom-up process, in which considerable work remains for the university with regard to the digital transformation.
Although the committee has seen that the university is strong in adjusting, it nevertheless recommends to prioritise more and not to do everything at the same time.
The committee assessed the Quality Agreements according to three criteria: 1. sufficient alignment with the themes of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; 2. a development process that involves students and participation bodies; 3. the manner in which monitoring is performed. In this aspect as well, the committee observed that the UT more than meets these criteria.
The University of Twente has opted for its own university profile, which is well-suited to its own vision for education, and that thus demonstrates clear overlaps with the themes of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (e.g. intensity of teaching, academic success, educational differentiation, quality of the teaching staff, student guidance and educational facilities).
The committee regards the UT’s profile as a clear contribution to quality improvement in education. Students acted as fully fledged sparring partners in the process of developing the Quality Agreements. This provides further evidence that it was truly a bottom-up process, which was aligned with all existing plans within the educational programmes and faculties.
The committee has seen that the university aspires to accomplish many things at the same time with regard to the Quality Agreements, and it has noted that many different projects are being addressed. The advice is to pay careful attention to the monitoring of this process, and it would be wise to arrange the monitoring at a somewhat higher level of detail.
The UT expects a report from the committee concerning the ITK and the Quality Agreements within two months. The official decisions will be taken by the NVAO and the Minister of Education, Culture and Science before 1 May.
Additional information is available at the following website:www.utwente.nl/quality-of-education
For questions or comments, please contact Susanne Wichman or Marc-Jan Zeeman.