‘Keuzegids masters better without ranking’

Differences in quality of education in the Netherlands are small, says Perry den Brok.
The ‘Best Masters University’ title no longer exists. Photo Luuk Zegers

The masters Keuzegids (selection guide) was published last week. This is the second consecutive year that there is no masters ranking included in the guide. This also means WUR’s title of “Best University” for master’s education has become obsolete. However, the end of the ranking is not the end of the world, says professor of Education and Learning Sciences Perry den Brok.

The ranking was repealed because there was only one data source for the assessment: The National Student Survey (Dutch acronym NSE). This survey focuses solely on student satisfaction. Other guides, such as the bachelor Keuzegids, still have a ranking. Further information on the ranking method is provided here (links to Dutch content) on the Keuzegids website. 

Different focus

Although it is nice to boast the label “Best University” and the number of top-courses in marketing focused on students, Den Brok says that the ranking no longer being available is not an issue for prospective students. ‘The differences in quality of education within the Netherlands are really small, so I don’t really have all that much faith in rankings’, Den Brok states. ‘In the end, prospective students must consider the differences in focus between the different programmes.’

In the end, prospective students must consider the differences in focus between the different courses

‘Considering how a programme is built up, how much freedom of choice it offers and how many compulsory subjects; to what degree the profile diverts from other courses in the same programme and what career perspectives are offered. What programme is more traditional? What programme uses problem-driven education?’

According to Den Brok, guides often use information that was not meant as data for rankings. The NSE’s objective is to analyse the quality of education. It serves us well to know whether students are satisfied with their education and what improvements we may make. But using these numbers for ranking? Some programmes score lower in the NSE because the city lacks facilities. The score is not always a reflection of the programmes.’

In the spotlight

Den Brok considers the fact that the masters Keuzegids no longer has a ranking ‘an improvement’ for prospective students. This is because there is more focus on the differences in the content of the programmes. Wageningen University, however, can no longer boast the title ‘Best University’ for master’s programmes, nor the label ‘top programme for a considerable number of masters programmes. This also removes a valuable marketing tool. How can this be cushioned? Den Brok: ‘If you wish to become an engineer, you know that Eindhoven has a robot football team, and Delft has a solar vehicle. These projects tickle the imagination. Student challenges and other student projects provide a perfect opportunity to make yourself visible.’

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