A degree is great, but what else did you do? Lots students do some kind of volunteer work or sit on a committee, and it would be good if they received recognition for this, many different parties agree.
So the Ministry is talking to students, university administrators and the IT organisation SURF about the possibilities. One idea is that universities and universities of applied sciences could start working with digital Edubadges.
It’s a good plan, the national umbrella organisation of student associations LKvV says. ‘You get credits for an internship, but for a year in student government you don’t get anything, even though you might have learned just as much in the process’, vice chair Emile Stekelenburg says.
Students can of course simply list their ancillary work on their CV, but particularly when venturing onto the international job market, the question is whether this will make much of an impression. ‘It might not mean much to employers’, Stekelenburg suggests. Recognised badges would then be useful.
What’s more, this idea was actually proposed by the LKvV. The association has spoken to MP Dennis Wiersma (VVD) about this, and he, together with the CDA, have submitted a motion: could the Ministry of Education perhaps get the ball rolling on this? Then the ball started rolling.
The Dutch Student Union is also happy with these developments. ‘I think it’s a good idea’, chair Lyle Muns says. ‘It helps if you get some kind of recognition for your extracurricular activities. Employers are already saying, that’s nice that you have a diploma, but what extracurricular activities have you done?’
Won’t it lead to some kind of race? Will students start collecting as many badges as they can so they have a better chance on the job market? ‘Recognition is good, but you have to be careful that it doesn’t overshadow passing your courses’, Dahran Çoban, chair of the Dutch National Student Association, says.
A diploma must retain its current value without extra badges is what she means. And she isn’t a supporter of strict national guidelines for awarding badges. For example, she herself has participated in rowing competitions and she also coached a team. ‘How do you recognise that with a badge?’
But she isn’t totally against the proposed badges. ‘I spent a year in student government at Leiden University, and I received a diploma supplement for it. That’s something tangible for the job market. You could compare it to that.’
Volunteer for a day
The idea is that there will be a national version of these certificates, so that employers have some kind of standard. Stekelenburg of the LKvV: ‘Then you will be able to see the difference between someone who was in student government fulltime for a whole year and someone who might have volunteered somewhere for a day.’
The Ministry wants to finalise the plan in the summer, Minister Van Engelshoven informed Parliament. Some universities, such as Maastricht, have already put the proposal into practice. Students at this university can now obtain up to five badges, in order to prevent students from collecting badges ‘like crazy’.