‘The Honours College has transformed me into an active student’
‘When I look back on the honours programme, all I can do is smile. It has transformed me into a student who thinks in terms of opportunities and solutions,’ said Roos ter Elst, student of Education and Child Studies, at the ceremony for the award of Honours certificates to bachelor’s students, on 6 November in the Hooglandse Kerk.
It is clear that Roos ter Elst has really blossomed thanks to the honours programme. She attended an information event together with another student. The other student decided not to enrol, and there was only a week to go before registration closed. ‘It was much too short, I thought, because I always needed such a long time to make up my mind,’ says Roos. And yet, she did make up her mind, on an impulse, and enrolled for the programme. After the six-month introductory period, she thought it would be a pity not to continue. And this turned to be the right decision for her. ‘The Honours College took really good care of us: we were given a lot of individual attention. My mentor treated me as a student with a name, a real person. There were lots of additional activities, from dinners to drinks, and I came home every time totally energized. The Honours College transformed me, from a passive to an active student. I kept having to make new choices, but I also began to view these choices as opportunities, and I started to think in terms of solutions. I now understand much better what learning means. The Honours College has made me more self-confident.’
What is the Honours College?
The various tracks begin with an orientation phase in the first year of the bachelor’s programme (following the 1st semester). A condition for ‘really’ starting in the second year is that students have to complete their first-year phase (propaedeuse) within one year. It is also possible to start the Honours College programme without following the first-year orientation phase. All students who make it through the second-year selection can join, irrespective of whether they have completed the orientation phase. The honours track lasts until the third year of the bachelor’s programme. Following completion of a full track (30 extracurricular study credits) students are awarded an honours certificate. Students are in intensive contact with their fellow honours students, for instance through interdisciplinary honours classes and joint activities.
The Honours College forms part of the Leiden University Honours Academy. The Academy also includes a programme for secondary-school students (Pre-University College), the Leiden University College The Hague, and the Leiden Leadership Programme for master’s students. The latter is also an extra-curricular programme.
In addition to the two student speeches, Professor Willemien den Ouden, Dean of the Honours Academy, also took the floor, and Professor of Immigration Law Peter Rodrigues gave a lecture on the refugee problem. Den Ouden is proud of the honours programme, which was launched five years ago and continues to grow. She explained that until now, the ceremony had always taken place in the Marekerk, but that the venue had become too small for the 150 students and their friends and family. She also reported that the University has already met its performance agreement with the Ministry of Education for this year, namely that 10% of students should follow an honours programme. She then went on to explain that Leiden University is still seeking solutions to specific problems, such as funding: the University does not receive any additional government funding for its honours programmes. For students who have just begun or who wish to start the honours track, her message was: new students will be given even more opportunity to adjust the honours programme to their personal needs and interests.
No one could fail to notice that the graduates were mostly women. A simple headcount revealed that approximately 75% of those stepping forward to receive their certificate were women, and only 25% men. The first young man to step forward, a student of medicine, was even given a loud applause. The ratio among the graduates was 23/8, precisely the 75%/25% ratio that also held for the total number of graduates present. This difference is much more significant than the male/female ratio among the regular student population, which is 60/40% in favour of female students. It should however be mentioned in this context that a number of laureates were unable to attend the ceremony due to other obligations: they were following a master’s programme or internship elsewhere, in some cases abroad.