VU Education Agenda 2023-2028: “Focus on an innovative mindset”

The department of Student and Educational Affairs (SOZ) aims to ensure that successful studying, teaching and leisure is possible at the VU. We do this now with 11 departments, because by 1 May 2023, the VU Centre for Teaching and Learning, a merger of the already existing LEARN! Academy and the Education lab, also became part of SOZ. This means we cover a large part of the student and teacher support chain at the VU. And of course we do that support together with colleagues from the other departments (we aim to work to integrated service support) and faculties. Let me not forget to mention that in our internationalisation chain, SOZ fleshes out (and, of course, can only do so in collaboration with the faculties and other services) the VU-wide internationalisation strategy, for the benefit of our research and our researchers.

Anyway, you might think “so what?” as you read this. What kind of introduction/promotion talk is this? Well this serves as an introduction to the VU Education Agenda 2023-2028, recently adopted by our Executive Board. This is a co-production of all education stakeholders, and brought together by Isabella van Ophem, programme manager education. It has become a wonderful, relatively concise, agenda where it is clear what we are going to do in the coming years, and therefore what we consider important.

As Jeroen Geurts, our rector magnificus, says in the foreword, “Focus for the coming years is on moving towards an innovative mindset”. We zoom in on this in the agenda: “An innovative mindset is the constant search for, and dialogue about, the development and improvement of our education”. And there are plenty of developments that feed this, for instance in the field of flexibilisation, lifelong learning, collaborations in the region (with universities of applied sciences), openness of education, and the opportunities offered by the “digitaliseringsimpuls” education (Npuls) (application of new technologies in education).

And how wonderful that at the same time as launching the education agenda, the CTL was also established. In the words of its director Janneke Waelen, “The CTL is a centre for the exchange of knowledge, ideas and experiences on educational development at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. With the aim of strengthening and supporting lecturers, education portfolio holders, programme directors and everyone involved in education, in order to build together a strong community of passionate education professionals.”

But what are we going to do? We have identified four goals for the coming years, and I’ll run through them briefly:

Educational profile

We want to ensure that VU’s identity, the importance we attach to diversity, a broad “mindset” for our students, and a good connection to the professional field are recognisable or incorporated at course level. The aforementioned opportunities we see (and are already working on) will come back even more strongly. And of course, quality and relevance remain essential.

Student success

How nice it was that a few years ago the concept of study success was supplemented by student success. After all, that is what it is ultimately all about. We have long said that at the VU you don’t become “something”, but “someone”. This means that we also expect something from our students, that they take control of their own study path, that they are involved and vocal, and that they embrace our values. Just recently, we recalibrated our code of conduct. Our entire university community has this guideline. And we want to continue working with students on student wellbeing and -resilience.

Teacher success

Besides the already mentioned, and just established, Centre for Teaching and Learning, which aims to be a true (social) hub for all teachers, we also want to focus on reducing workload. And really recognise and reward our teaching professionals properly. The fact that we have had this education agenda for some time was born out of the idea of giving our teaching a strong stage; we also have a specific focus on talents in and for education during our New Year’s gala.

Teaching facilities

At the VU, we want to ensure that everyone, student, teacher, researcher, and all staff, feels well supported. For education, we have already set a lot in motion for this. We also realise that we are not there yet. We are working hard on streamlining our information channels, increasing our capacity in digital examinations, exploring a smarter academic year, and working more and more data-driven. The puzzle we have of making sure we optimise our teaching spaces so that as much teaching as possible can be done on campus is something we want to start solving. And we will also have to properly support and facilitate the developments in active blended learning, lifelong learning, open education and flexibilisation of education.

For this year, we have “translated “ (though only available in Dutch;-) what it means for us. Beautiful challenging times lie ahead!

Wilma van Wezenbeek
18 May 2023

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