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The Young Academy on interdisciplinary academic education

If students are to be taught from the viewpoint of several different disciplines, they should first have a firm foundation in one field. They will then be better able to benefit from interdisciplinary teaching than if the teaching combines knowledge and working methods from very different fields. This is one of the messages from the Young Academy in the exploratory report: Cross-border: opportunities and limitations for interdisciplinary academic teaching.

The advantages of interdisciplinary education include the opportunities that arise for resolving societal problems that in many cases cannot be addressed from just a single discipline. Not only this, graduates can also benefit from the extra knowledge this form of teaching gives them when they are looking for work, the researchers write. Health psychologist Andrea Evers was one of the co-authors of the publication, on behalf  of Leiden University. 

Recommendations for students, lecturers and administrators

The Young Academy makes a number of recommendations to ensure that interdisciplinarity comes into its own. University administrators are urged to embrace and communicate the importance of interdisciplinarity and to translate this into minor programmes. They are also advised to abandon those rules that make it difficult for lecturers to teach at a different faculty. At the same time they should make every effort to maintain the classical disciplines. There are also recommendations for students, who are advised to actively seek opportunities to study in an interdisciplinary context. They can look for opportunities within existing teaching programmes, but can also make their own plans. Students do need to bear in mind the cohesion of their programme and first build up enough knowledge of one field. The recommendations for lecturers comprise: choosing a theme that fits several disciplines, starting with small teams, and offering summer or winter schools. They also have to make sure that students are given a good basic knowledge of one specific field. 

About the exploratory study

The Young Academy conducted a survey among scientists and held ten in-depth interviews with academics who themselves conduct interdisciplinary research and who have experience with interdisciplinary teaching.  The issue was also discussed with various experts on the theme. On the basis of their findings, the Young Academy has made recommendations for lecturers, students and university administrators. 

About the Young Academy

The Young Academy is a platform of young acdemics from different disciplines. They organise activities in the field of interdisciplinarity, science policy and science and society. Several Leiden academics are members of the platform. 

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