In two years, UU will offer broad bachelor’s in life sciences in English

New English-language bachelor’s programs for science and medical students

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Starting in 2020, students in Utrecht with an interest in biology and chemistry will be able to sign up for a broad bachelor’s program in which English is the main language. There will also be a new English-language bachelor’s program for students who want to further their studies in medicine, veterinary medicine, or pharmacy.

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The UU Faculty of Science will develop the broad, English-language life sciences bachelor, the board announced last month at a faculty board meeting. Biology, pharmacy, and chemistry teachers will be involved in the development of the new study program.

At the same time, a new English-language bachelor is being developed for students with an interest in medicine, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy. The science faculty is collaborating with the veterinary medicine faculty and the medicine faculty. The preliminary name of this study program is Utrecht College of Clinical Sciences.

The faculties of Science, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine had already voiced their interest years ago in creating an English-language bachelor for every UU master’s program. Now, the feasibility study has been conducted, with a positive outcome.

Interesting to bilingual high school students
The new broad bachelor in life sciences will coexist with the current, Dutch-language disciplinary studies Biology and Chemistry, which will remain the same. The English bachelor will replace the current Molecular Life Sciences (MLS). MLS isn’t an independent study program, but a Dutch sub-program available to students of Biology or Chemistry with a broad interest.

The faculty hopes that around a quarter of students of the new program will come from abroad. Beyond that, hopes are to keep the number of Dutch students comparable to the current MLS program: around 100 students. In total, that would mean the program will have around 125 students.

According to Gerard Barkema, vice-dean of the Faculty of Science, the faculty is hoping the new program will interest and attract high school students at bilingual vwo-schools, who would like to continue their studies in English. He also thinks the arrival of ambitious foreign students will enrich the study climate. “On top of that, with this program, we can offer them both a disciplinary and a multidisciplinary study program.”

It’s as yet unclear what the name of the new bachelor will be. A questionnaire held among high school students showed that names with the term ‘biophysics’ were felt to be the most interesting. ‘Future Life Sciences’ was also highly appreciated.

Waiting for the green light
Aside from the new broad bachelor’s program in Life Sciences, there’s another new English-language bachelor being developed that’s linked to the UU masters in Medicine, Veterinary Science and Pharmacy. The idea behind it is that the current bachelor’s programs have a lot of overlap in their curriculum, and students are still very young when they have to choose one discipline.

Both bachelor’s programs aim to start in 2020. Before that time, they need the green light from the university board, as well as education inspector NVAO, and the judgment of the Committee for Efficiency in Higher Education (CDHO), which judges whether or not the new program adds anything useful to the current offer of studies in the Netherlands.

Barkema says the ideal situation would mean developing an English-language bachelor’s program for students of mathematics, physics and IT. “But the initiative needs to come from the study programs themselves. Those studies are currently looking at the possibilities and researching whether that’s something they’d want to do.”

Not diminished
The announcement of the start of these two new English bachelors was made shortly after the UU had set its new language policies. One important point in the policies was that the UU bachelor’s programs are ‘in principle’ in Dutch.

Barkema doesn’t see an inconsistency in this. “It’s not as if the offer of Dutch programs is diminished by this. It’ll still be possible for students to study chemistry or biology in Dutch. There’s just the added option of doing it in English.”

Translation: Indra Spronk

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