News of the Week: 16 – 22 October

What's happened in week 43? A culture of fear in the dentistry school, learning communities grow, a checkers champion and more.

Culture of fear at dental school

thumb-tandheelkundeA group of students and recent graduates of the dental school are very concerned about the programme at UMCG. Many students are afraid of their teachers and describe a negative work and study culture.

They feel belittled by their instructors and describe them as unprepared and unprofessional, but few dare to complain – the lecturers that they want to give feedback about are the same people that the students have to give that feedback to. They also form the exam committee.

Some students reported teachers laughing in their faces over their grades, but they feel that they just have to grin and bear it in order to get their degree. In April, a group of 23 students submitted a letter with heavy criticism of the programme, and a confidential committee was formed to address the concerns and will publish their findings soon.

The letter writers hope for new guidelines, including a better atmosphere in the programme, requiring a Basic Education Qualification certificate for all lecturers, improved communication about decision making and openness about the exam commission.

Learning communities in all faculties


The university council has decided that all faculties at the RUG have to eventually adopt learning communities. Currently, pilots for the new education model are being conducted: first year students in medicine, spatial science and pedagogical science, among others, have been divided into subgroups this school year.

Learning communities aren’t strictly defined and each faculty can utilize them differently, but they should include a social and an educational side. Students are meant to form a community inside and outside of class, as well as working in groups.

Unhappy about academic year schedule


This academic year is shorter than it used to be: there are 40 weeks of classes instead of 42. It’s meant to make studying easier, but the change has caused more stress and increased the work load in many departments: the same number of classes must fit into less time.

Resits can’t be scheduled into the same block as the classes they are for, and if students don’t pass on their first try, they may not meet the admissions requirements for the next class. RUG spokesperson Riepko Buikema sees it as a work-in-progress where policy makers have to work together closely with the faculties.

‘Publish failed experiments’

thumb-proefdieren-breedIf research fails, it should still be published, university lecturer Martijn Nawijn says.

Nawijn used mice to research why certain people develop asthma, but the genes he was testing spread beyond the lungs. Other researchers had encountered the same problems, but Nawijn didn’t know because nothing had been published. With a subsidy, he can publish his own results.

‘The top magazines by and large don’t accept articles about negative results’, Nawijn says. ‘As a result, few scientists bother to write the articles. With my results in the public domain, that means that the experiment wasn’t all for nothing.’

Old exams online

thumb-tentamenFrom now on, the RUG will place more old exams online. The university council is encouraging faculties to upload exams from past years online as practice material. That way, students can better prepare for their exams.

This spring, first year ICT students took an exam that had been posted on before – many received a 10, and the grades were counted. Consequently, the council considered taking action against the website, but decided instead to embrace it. How the exams will be shared online is up to the faculties, but most will be posted on Nestor.

RUG physics student checkers champion

thumb-boomstrageorgievPhysics student and checkers player Roel Boomstra, 21, became the European Champion of checkers in Talinn last week. Roel is dumbfounded: ‘I knew that I had a good chance, but you’re never sure that you’re actually going to win’, he says. ‘It’s really fantastic.’

He went into the tournament as the favourite, but after a disappointing summer, he worried he may not be fit enough. For the European Championship, he actually trained less – but it worked. The physics student isn’t done yet: he’s preparing for the World Championships, which will likely be held in the Netherlands next year.