Leiden University logo.

nl en

‘Demanding help’?

‘I didn’t have that answer’ .. ‘No idea’ … ‘Did I have to read the whole judgment? … Sorry, I haven’t prepared for today’s class.’ These are a few comments from students that our teaching staff hear all too often. Usually, after trying some gentle encouragement followed by slight disappointment, you move on to a student who is properly prepared and keen to participate.

Time for action
Good preparation and active participation by students are unfortunately not always something that can be assumed in the bachelor's programme. The 2022 mid-term review committee found that student attendance and active participation are relatively low in the bachelor's courses. Ultimately, this is reflected in a comparatively long study period and a low study success rate. This is not only due to certain students, but also perhaps the result of teaching that often unintentionally facilitates non-commitment. So it’s time for action!

Activating, in-depth and blended teaching
The Kernvisie for the bachelor’s programme contains various measures that aim to provide activiating and challenging education based on the ‘demanding help’ principle (i.e. setting high standards – being demanding – while also supporting students). When the Taskforce Kernsivie got underway in 2023, it was immediately clear dat activating and in-depth teaching would be an important objective. Seven teams were set up, one of which was Team 2 which was to focus on in-depth, activating education and blended teaching. Since then, Team 2 has been working on what ‘demanding help’ is exactly.

Thorny issues
The team soon encountered two thorny issues. First, the assumption that academic teaching cannot be ‘schools’, meaning a rigid type of instruction like in a school setting as opposed to an academic setting. Second, the assumption that how a degree programme is designed and taught falls under the autonomy of professors and lecturers.


But what exactly is meant by the Dutch word ‘schools’? Why is it looked down on in a university setting? Dutch language dictionary Dikke van Dale says ‘schools’ means: ‘(negative) giving little or no opportunity to work independently’. Indeed, that’s not something you would say was a good way of teaching, irrespective of whether in an academic setting or not. Team 2 is certainly looking for ways to get students to work independently in their studies. Our, at times, somewhat passive teaching method with no obligations is becoming more activating. As a result, students are required to be well-prepared and participate actively in class. So that’s hardly ‘schools’! And the good news is that many courses are already being taught in this way, using engaging and easily implemented activating teaching methods. We will build further on this in the coming months. To do so, Team 2 is developing a ‘menu’ offering a variety of activating methods that can be applied relatively easily in the bachelor’s programme. More information on this will follow later.      

And now the other thorny issue - autonomy. Put bluntly, it doesn’t exist and never has existed. Indeed, autonomy in the sense of complete independence is not possible in a logically coherent study programme that aims to educate students to a certain final level. That is a shared responsibility that also entails obligations for each course within that programme. So, to stay with my field (constitutional and administrative law), no autonomy, but obviously free co-administration. This offers many things, but not unlimited freedom. Activating and challenging education is therefore not a choice, but a necessary condition for a course in the bachelor’s programme. But how that is filled in is up to the teaching staff. Our ‘menu’ does not prescribe anything, but offers (hopefully) much inspiration and space to choose a form that fits well with the course and the teaching team.

Besides the ‘menu’ mentioned above, Team 2 is working hard on so-called ‘integration groups’. This is a new and complementary type of teaching that is also intended to contribute to activating and challenging education. Next year, first a pilot will be held followed by a cautious and gradual implementation in teaching. More information on this will follow later.

If you have good ideas to help make our education more activating and challenging, we’d be delighted to hear from you!


Rogier Kegge,
Chairperson Team 2



This website uses cookies.