Door Anna van Wuijckhuijse
As a follow up to the last article about Social Sciences that was published in de Moeial about a month ago, this article focuses on the way the study is developing at the VUB; whether it has effectively grown into the largest study and how the university deals with this now that the last enrollments are finalized.
Door Anna van Wuijckhuijse
The diverse Social Sciences is a booming study at the VUB as the only English taught Bachelor. At the start of the academic year 2017-2018 there were 289 students enrolled in the program of which 193 in the first year and 96 in the second year. Nevertheless, almost 40 students have joined since September 25th, so the full counter now stands at 326 (of which 219 in the first Bachelor year). This still makes it the second largest Bachelor at the VUB, right after Law for which the speculated numbers currently lie between 280 and 300 students in the first year. More than 60% of the students in Social Sciences are from abroad, which makes for many differing perspectives that everyone has to respect. A goal of the communications professor, Jan Loisen, is therefore to add as many international examples as possible during the lectures where “it is especially nice that there is a lot of input from the crowd”. With exactly 70 nationalities in the classroom it is certainly possible to have interesting discussions but because of the large number of students in the lecture hall, this is difficult to accomplish.The smaller seminars in various classes are therefore a way to bring the interaction back into the classroom and make certain concepts more understandable.
It must be a challenge to teach in front of such a large group, but the professors have adapted their exams and teaching methods to fit the needs of the masses; “I use Poll Everywhere (an app that lets the audience participate during a presentation by answering poll questions on their mobile phone, editor’s note) to create a calming moment, to make it as engaging as possible and try to reserve 5 minutes now and then to let students discuss” explains professor Loisen. “With extra staff we didn’t need to make any drastic changes in the structure of the program so far” as Dieter Vandebroeck, the program director of Social Sciences, informs us. Even though it is difficult to estimate how much it will still grow, students will always have the right to apply for, and enter Social Sciences in the future “as we are not prepared to implement a numerus clausus”. Thanks to its surprising and fast success this will definitely not remain the only English taught Bachelor at the VUB. The faculty of Economics and Social Sciences is currently creating a second English Bachelor in Business Economics which is supposed to launch next academic year and other faculties are also looking at these possibilities. All in all, Social Sciences is still evolving and there are still some growing pains, but progress can only be made through learning.