Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden University to take part in ‘smarter academic year’ pilots

Can the academic year be structured in such a way to give students, lecturers and researchers a bit more breathing space? To find out, Leiden University is taking part in ‘smarter academic year’ pilots.

Analysis by The Young Academy has shown that, compared with other countries, the academic year in the Netherlands is long and intensive. This leads to a high workload for students and lecturers. Together with 14 other educational institutions, Leiden University is starting various pilots to restructure existing teaching activities, including by reducing the number of weeks of teaching and exams and making better use of educational innovations.

At Leiden University, the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs and Leiden Law School are going to run three pilots in the Master’s programmes in European Law, Public International Law and Crisis & Security Management and the Bachelor’s in Public Administration. The aim is to design the teaching in such a way as to reduce the workload for students, lecturers and supporting staff while ensuring the quality of the teaching remains the same or improves even.

Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl is pleased that the university is taking part in the pilots. ‘The aim of the smart college year is to design the teaching such that it reduces the workload for students, lecturers and support staff. We are going to restructure our existing teaching activities and make our assessment more efficient. This will give researchers more room to do their research, reduce the number of full study weeks for students and ease the workload of lecturers and staff. So a win-win situation for everyone.’

Portfolio instead of thesis

At the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, the thesis track for the Master’s in Crisis & Security Management is being transformed into a continuous learning pathway running throughout the year. Students will bring together research and professional skills and reflection in a portfolio, which should make the programme more feasible to study and the teaching more effective. As students will develop various academic skills throughout the year, this will give them and their lecturers more breathing space and enable them to complete the academic year on time.

The pilot at the Institute of Public Administration should give lecturers more room to focus on core tasks. It also aims to offer more peace of mind to students who currently experience a lot of deadline stress. To achieve this, an inventory is being made of, for example, skills, exercises and intermediate exams. Alternative forms of assessment will also be experimented with. Resit scheduling and thesis deadlines will also be looked at to create longer teaching-free periods.

Blended learning

The pilot at Leiden Law School will make more use of blended learning (a good mix of online and on-campus learning) and flexible scheduling. The aim is to reduce the teaching workload for lecturers and support staff while improving the quality of the education by giving students more opportunities to learn and develop. Blended learning is already used in several master’s programmes at Leiden Law School. The pilot will explore whether this ‘blending’ actually does reduce the workload and provide space for other, more activating teaching activities.

In principle, the pilots will be for four years. The results will probably be analysed in the 2026-2027 academic year.

Photo: Marc de Haan

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