‘Interaction between teachers and students is our strength’

Arnold Bregt succeeds Tiny van Boekel as education director at WUR. He sees interaction between teachers and students as key to the success of Wageningen’s education programme. ‘Keeping up that quality is the main task.’
Albert Sikkema

Arnold Bregt: ‘My role as Dean of Education is to increase the adaptive capacity of the Wageningen education ecosystem.’ photo: Guy Ackermans

Two months ago, Arnold Bregt, professor of Geo-information science and Remote Sensing, was approached about whether he would be interested in becoming Dean of Education at the university. He had to think about it for a week – ‘I am perfectly happy in the chair group’ –, but decided to apply after all. ‘I am education-minded, and education is the most important part of my work to me.’

During his interview Bregt was asked for his vision on education. ‘I see education as a complex adaptive system. There are a lot of players involved who interact with each other and with their environment, thus shaping the education.’ Wageningen education is good, he believes, because the building blocks are good. ‘Our strength lies in the courses, in which motivated teachers and students interact and are innovative. That quality is under pressure now from the rise in student numbers. There are always factors you have to respond to in education. You have to evaluate and adapt continuously to keep up to date. My role as Dean of Education is to increase the adaptive capacity of the Wageningen education ecosystem.’

Together with teachers, students and staff, Bregt wants to develop scenarios for Wageningen education in 2025. ‘Maybe we should change our education programme in response to the growth. Perhaps we should integrate the online MOOCs more in the regular education programme. And how do we cope with the growth in the supervision of thesis projects? Are there other options besides thesis circles? Currently we have a master/apprentice model with plenty of contact between teachers and students. That personal attention is labour-intensive, but it does produce quality. Keeping up that quality when we have more students is the main task.’

Curbing the growth is not unthinkable for Bregt. ‘We are scientists, aren’t we? We educate people to be able to solve problems and develop products. You acquire the skills you need for that by practising. So if we need to set a limit on admissions, we should. But perhaps we could also take on more staff or get PhD candidates to teach more.’

Bregt will work four days a week in Atlas as Dean of Education and carry on working one day a week at his chair group. ‘I will go on supervising PhD candidates, which is important to me.’

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