One of the world's top 100 universities is seeking pioneering UK students to start a mould-breaking course at the brand new University College Groningen in the Netherlands. Linda Whitney discovers what’s on offer.
Professor Hans van Ees is looking for students who want to be pioneers. Van Ees is the Dean of University College Groningen, a newly-created faculty of the 400-year-old University of Groningen, and he's looking for international students to join its new BA/BSc Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) course.
The inaugural year of the course, which is taught in English, starts in September 2014 and van Ees says: "We are looking for students who want to embark on an educational adventure - pioneers who will have a strong say in developing the course."
By British standards it’s unusual. The three year course combines creativity, art, culture, science and scientific methodology. It will encourage students to use imagination and innovation to find solutions to complex problems in the fields of energy, healthy ageing and sustainable society.
The first year includes strands covering the challenges posed by modern society, sciences and medical science, history and criticism, and the social sciences. Students also learn scientific methodology and are trained to use imagination and innovation to suggest solutions to problems such as poverty.
In the last two years students build their own course from a wide choice of major and minor modules including culture and cognition, development studies, spatial sciences, sports science, psychology in society and many more.
"We want students who are eager to shape their own education, who think for themselves instead of simply being taught. It is this that lays the foundations for leadership and will appeal to employers," says van Ees. The third year builds links to the corporate sector including work placements, but while some graduates are expected to go into employment, van Ees expects most to go on to masters courses.
"We would like students to create their own horizons in terms of academic development and contributions to society," he says. "In the future we hope that University College Groningen will become famous for this."
As well as an having an interdisciplinary approach the course is conducted in an international atmosphere - it will include 50 per cent international students.
LAS courses are becoming more common in the Netherlands and are expected to spread throughout Europe. Charlotte Hoekstra, a former LAS student in the Netherlands and now student affairs coordinator at University College Groningen says: "My bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences broadened my understanding of society. The interdisciplinary curriculum meant I learned that people with different backgrounds approach a common problem from different perspectives.
"LAS graduates are in high demand for prestigious master programmes because of their academic skills such as writing, presenting, and research. I was able to enrol in one of the highest-ranked research master programmes at the University of Groningen working with internationally acknowledged researchers in social and organisational psychology and then worked in different organisations around the world."
Groningen already has its share of UK students. Ritwick Swain, 21, from St Alban's is studying at Groningen University. He says: "Groningen feels like a true students' city and almost everyone speaks some English. The diversity among students is increasing which brings a certain vibrancy - it's great meeting students from around the world.
"It may have been a bold gamble coming here but it could not have worked out better. I would recommend it to anyone who is excited by a new experience."
To apply for the course UK students need three A levels at grade B or above, one of which should be maths. "Their personal statements should show that that they are multitalented people who are socially engaged and community-minded, because we place a great emphasis on community building here," says van Ees.
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