VU – UTNews and agendaNewsIn search for the place of pain and trouble

In search for the place of pain and trouble

Mareanne Karssen was the project manager on behalf of VU Amsterdam during the start-up phase of Mechanical Engineering. She looks back on a beautiful and challenging job. ‘The collaboration with the people from UT was pleasant from the start. We shared a pragmatic attitude and the atmosphere was also good.’

Technical study in Amsterdam 

‘An analysis we carried out showed that pre-university students with a technical profile from the Amsterdam region are significantly less likely to choose a technical study than students with a technical profile from other regions. A market survey that we subsequently commissioned showed that these students would be more likely to opt for a technical study if it were offered in the Amsterdam region.

Practical matters 

An important point of attention was that we should not only talk about the dot on the horizon, but also about very practical matters. Administrators often have a tendency to skip  the places of pain and trouble and rather concentrate on the profile and image. However, these places are decisive for progress and the ultimate success.

Familiarise yourself quickly

In the beginning, the plan was that the Mechanical Engineering students in Amsterdam would come to Twente every week for education and practical skills, including an overnight stay. This would allow them to quickly become familiar with the UT. A nice idea, but practically unfeasible. Students have little time, inclination or opportunity for this because of their part-time jobs, sports and club life.

Realistic scenario

The intended weekly move may seem like a futility, but when you are recruiting students for a new study programme, these kinds of issues can certainly play a role in their process of choice. In the end, a fortnightly visit to Twente seemed a much more realistic scenario. And that is what it became. Whether this ultimately played a role in their choice we do not know but we were very happy that in 2019 over 60 students chose for Mechanical Engineering in Amsterdam.

Scheduling and Language 

Besides the travel movements of students, other issues also required attention. For example, the educational model of both universities is different in terms of scheduling. Not a sexy subject for administrators but again very essential to succeed. And we did succeed. Mechanical Engineering  follows the semester system of the UT within the schedule of VU Amsterdam. And then there was the language issue. Mechanical Engineering in Amsterdam had to become an English-language study in order to serve the international market. But opinions differed on this. Some people saw it differently, especially in Amsterdam. The outcome was an English-language study that explicitly targets students from the Amsterdam and North Holland regions.

Staying connected and involved

It was an exciting project with a lot of speed, steam and boiling water. It is also mainly a question of keeping up the momentum. You have to make sure that all the parties involved, such as the executive boards, the deans, the participation councils, the communication staff and the pre-university students, are provided with the right information on time and step by step, so that they stay involved and committed. In a very short period of eighteen months, we succeeded quite well.

Broadening and sustainability

Now is the time to broaden Mechanical Engineering and make it more sustainable. A single technical study at VU Amsterdam will not work; there must be more. In addition, Mechanical Engineering must be better embedded at VU Amsterdam and we must start the research part. And all of this is also going to happen. But first I will enjoy the festive graduation moment on 1 July. After all, that is what we are doing it all for.’