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Humanities programmes complete improvement period

NVAO recently reassessed the Humanities bachelor’s and master’s programmes that were granted an improvement period in 2014. Out of the total of 26 programmes involved, 25 have implemented the required improvements. For that reason, NVAO has extended the accreditation of these programmes to the standard six years. One programme will be subjected to a reassessment this autumn.

Two years ago, NVAO assessed 212 bachelor’s and master’s programmes in the Humanities discipline, of which 26 programmes were found to be sub-standard. Three quarters of these programmes scored a satisfactory, and 10 per cent was rated as “good”. NVAO granted an improvement period of a maximum of two years to the programmes assessed as unsatisfactory.

NVAO Chair Anne Flierman is pleased with the efforts expended by the programmes: ‘At the time, we raised the alarm because we were concerned when we found that 13 per cent of the Humanities programmes failed to meet the standard. Dutch higher education cannot afford this. After all, the Humanities programmes attract more than 6000 new students every year, and the discipline accounts for a total of 30,000 students. I am pleased about the way the programmes have heeded the criticism, and energetically implemented successful measures for improvement. The boards of the institutions have clearly supported these measures. This has brought the exit level of the Dutch Humanities programmes up to par.’

The reassessments show that the measures for improvement pertain not just to the achieved learning outcomes. In most cases, the aims and objectives were also thoroughly reviewed, as was the teaching-learning environment. According to the assessment panels, the measures for improvement have resulted in a distinct, substantial improvement in the programmes and the achieved exit levels. The improvement is effective and lasting.

For example, most of the programmes have created more room in their curricula for the acquisition of academic, writing, and research skills. The programmes have reinforced the academic skills learning pathways and improved the position of the final thesis in the curriculum and its supervision. Wherever relevant, more attention is focused on the entrance requirements, in order to improve the basis for achieving the required level. Finally, in many cases, interconnectivity in the curriculum has also been improved.

All the institutions have reinforced the role of the examining board. The boards have been given a greater say in the policy regarding learning assessments and the monitoring of the quality of final projects. In most cases, the policy regarding learning assessments has been fine-tuned, involving more distinct assessment criteria and an improved testing and assessment system. In addition, the exit levels are now assessed by more raters.

As for the exit level realised, the theses now feature a better justification in terms of methodology, tutoring has been intensified, the aims and objectives for theses and the assessment criteria have been formulated with more clarity, and the thesis assessment procedure has been considerably improved. As a result of all this, the required exit levels are attained, by both the bachelor’s and the master’s programmes.