UU in Higher Education guide: more appreciation for teachers, complaints about facilities

Photo of Governance students. The study programme had the highest rating of all UU study programmes. Photo: DUB, Anthony Donner

In general, students are fairly satisfied with the quality of Bachelor’s study programmes at Dutch universities. Despite the national discussions about the student loan system, the increasing internationalisation, and the quality of education, the number of students at universities is still on the rise. The Higher Education Guide 2020 (Keuzegids Universiteiten) that was published on Wednesday shows that the general rating of education is higher than in previous years. The opinions on scientific education and the assessment of teachers, especially, have gone up.

The data used by the Higher Education Guide shows that the study success (the number of students who graduate after four years) is currently at the highest level since 2006: 59.4 of all the vwo high schoolers who started at university in 2014 had their diplomas after four years. University association VSNU says that this number was only at 38.7 percent in 2006 (for students who started in 2002).

Randstad universities
Still, some universities are better than others, according to the Higher Education Guide. Like every year, the guide includes a ranking. The universities are divided into two categories: broad, classic universities, and other universities. Utrecht is in the first category, and takes third place, which is one place higher than last year. Radboud University Nijmegen is in first place. Remarkably, VU University Amsterdam is in second place.

For years, the VU was at the bottom of the list, along with fellow Amsterdam-based University of Amsterdam, but the VU has been climbing steadily for years – while the University of Amsterdam is still in last place on the ranking. The harsh judgment of students is, apparently, not related to the fact that it’s in the ‘Randstad’ metropolitan area, as critics of student surveys sometimes say.

Broad, classic universities

Radboud University Nijmegen64,5
AVU University Amsterdam61,5
Utrecht University59,5
University of Groningen59,5
Leiden University59
University of Amsterdam53,5

In the category of Other Universities, Wageningen is still far above the others, while Erasmus University Rotterdam is at the bottom of the list. The university in Wageningen has held its first place in the Higher Education Guide since 2004.

Other Universities

Wageningen University74
University of Twente68.5
Open University67
Maastricht University64
Tilburg University62
Eindhoven University of Technology59,5
Delft University of Technology58,5
Erasmus University Rotterdam55

The highest-rated study programme in the Higher Education Guide is also one at Wageningen: Plant sciences. There are no UU programmes in the list of highest-scoring programmes, but there is one from the University of Amsterdam: Modern Greek language and culture.

National Student Survey
The Higher Education Guide has been comparing all universities in the Netherlands with each other for years, in order to help high school students make a decision. The guide bases its ranking of universities and study programmes on a few different data sets. The editors use the National Student Survey (NSE), looks at the results of visitations by external experts, and retrieves data from the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU).

This year, the NSE faced a number of issues. The participation rate among students had dropped, a quarter of students filled in the survey anonymously, and the first version was rejected by Statistics Netherlands as ‘not representative’. After fixing the data, the Guide says they’ve got enough information to create a sound assessment.

More appreciation for teachers in Utrecht
Looking at the study programmes in Utrecht, it turns out students still aren’t satisfied with the facilities offered by the university. Exception to this rule are the programmes Economics and Philosophy, Politics & Economics (PPE), which are both housed at the international campus, and both get good grades for facilities. Compared to other universities, the UU gets low scores on internationalisation and the connection to the labour market. In internationalisation, the biggest questions are to what extent the UU encourages its students to go abroad, to what extent you encounter other cultures during your studies, and how many international elements are incorporated in the study programme.

On the other hand, the assessment of the contents of the UU Bachelor’s programmes is more positive compared to previous years, and there’s more appreciation for the quality of the teachers. Especially within Humanities, the UU teachers score quite high. In language-related study programmes like Dutch, German, Italian, French, and Spanish, they get two pluses in the assessment of the guide.

The health sector, which includes the life sciences of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical Sciences, perform well in Utrecht. The real life-based education in these programmes is especially appreciated.

No national top
The Guide gives a rating between 0 and 100. Utrecht University doesn’t have any real national top programmes, and no exceptionally bad ones either. The highest-rated programme at the UU is Public Administration and Organization Science, with a score of 82. Celtic and German also get high scores: both have 80 points.

The UU programme with the worst score is Information Sciences with 46 points. But IT (52 points) and Artificial Intelligence (50 points) are also assessed as mediocre programmes. Especially the scientific education scores low. In Information sciences, the low assessment of teacher stands out. “I think the quality of our programmes is all right, as the difference with other programmes is very small,” says Johan Jeuring, department chairman of IT, “but there are some things that could be improved. One point is the very skewed balance of student numbers and staff in the past few years. Our student numbers grew enormously, but until recently, our staff number had only grown at a very limited pace. We’ve already taken some steps in hiring more people. Aside from that, scientific training is an important point of attention. The current score isn’t dramatic, but as we think this topic is important, it should really be our showpiece.”

Another programme that’s assessed as mediocre is Economics. Students are happy with the facilities and the practicability of the programme, but in other aspects, students aren’t quite as pleased. “This has been this way for a number of years, and we’re trying very hard to improve this,” says programme director Marcel Boumans. “And you immediately see improvement in the points you can fix quickly, like the facilities. Other points might take longer before the improvement becomes visible.”

Mistakes in the Higher Education Guide
Utrecht University has since pointed out two errors in the calculations of the Higher Education Guide. In the paper edition, the wrong calculations were used for University College Utrecht and Liberal Arts & Sciences. As a result, UCU received 64 points instead of 78, and Liberal Arts & Sciences got 54 instead of 58. The guide has since corrected these scores online – not in the book, but if you use the QR code on the book to visit the site, you’ll find the correct information, according to an employee of the Higher Education Guide.


Very goodPoints
Public Administration and Organization Science82
Religion Sciences78
University College Utrecht78
Biomedical Sciences76
Earth Sciences74
University College Roosevelt              74
Veterinary Medicine66
Educational sciences66
Art History64
Language and Culture studies62
Nature sciences & innovation management62
Interdisciplinary Social Sciences62
Cultural anthropology60
Global Sustainability Science60
Social Geography58
Liberal Arts & Sciences58
Pharmaceutical Sciences56
Philosophy, Politics & Economics56
Media & Culture54
Artificial Intelligence50
Information Sciences46