Education Update - April

Dearest Members,

We’re in the penultimate bloc of the year! I hope this bloc has been treating you well, and if there are any structural issues with the courses you’re taking, you know who to reach out to!

It’s been a busy month - first, an update on the Politics of Difference course. Following a flood of feedback from students taking this 6EC course, I organised a meeting with the POD team - Dr. Saskia Bonjour, Dr. Darshan Vigneswaran, and the Bachelor Coordinator, Dr. Judith Huigens. During this meeting, I conveyed students’ frustrations regarding the problems with the order of Perusalls, the vagueness with the vlog assignment, mistakes within the quizzes, and finally, complaints about the course workload and the note-taking methods within the lectures. To start with the end of the list, the POD team has emphasised that there is a significant difference between the scores of classes that were allowed laptops, and those that weren’t; the latter’s scores being higher. Given this tangible change in cohort scores, it seems to be in the best interest for the class to continue being - to some extent - laptop-free. Regarding the vlog assignment, the team has taken your feedback into consideration, and is considering implementing an inspection moment during the course next year. Students will be able to register for a review of their vlog assignments, and speak to the team at the inspection. They did, however, emphasise that as the course is exclusively a lecture course, and does not have accompanying tutorials, Perusall and the vlog assignment are the only moments within which students have a platform to interact, and develop their understandings of the course content. The team acknowledges the number of mix-ups during the course, and will be sure to triple-check the Perusalls before the publication of the course next year. Regarding the workload of the course, the course evaluations have shown that there are very few people (<30) who spend more than 20hrs a week on the course, and hence it’s well within the expectations of a 6EC course. The team has been very receptive to your feedback and is eager to incorporate it into next year. 

Within the Programme Committee, in the Bachelor’s section, we met with Dr. Sebastiaan Tijsterman who will be taking over for Bram Cruesen within the HisMoW course next year, and looped him in on some of the feedback first years’ had on the course, so he can hit the ground with all the necessary context. We also discussed the publication structure of MC exams on the Canvas calendar - the overlap of the 4 different examination moments (English, Dutch, English extra time and Dutch extra time) has led to some confusion amongst the first years, and we discussed an alternative form of presentation, and that lecturers should emphasise the start times of the exams within lectures so that students are well aware. We also discussed the lack of communication, and the study disruption related to campus shut downs during recent protests. 

Students have eluded to some discomfort in speaking on, or writing about some of the prominent political conflicts during our time, one of them being the War in Gaza, and while we discussed this within the PC, we will also be discussing some aspects of it within the Education Dialogue early next month. Finally, we also discussed the use of AI within Perusall assignments during the course - both, that students were using AI to fulfil their Perusall assignments, and the perception that the Perusalls are solely graded by AI. There has been a reassurance that the Perusalls are being moderated by junior lecturers, and are not solely graded by AI. 

In addition to all of this, I also had a meeting with Dr. Judith Huigens, the Bachelor Director, to discuss discrepancies between the specialisation tracks, and the availability of exam questions prior to the exam. According to the Teaching and Examinations Regulations, students are entitled to example questions and answers for each form of examination they’re subject to. Some specialisation courses did not have this available to them, and Dr. Huigens is working on ensuring that this is standardised across the board.

Onto the first year, within meetings with the First Year Council, I have passed on feedback regarding IPRES to Dr. Norah Schulten, the First Year Coordinator, particularly that the tutorials for Excel on Canvas should also allow for tutorials on Mac, so as to not disadvantage students with MacBooks. There was also feedback on the Excel Handouts - that they were outdated, so the IPRES team is working on updating them.

In addition to IPRES, in the first week of May, I will be meeting with Prof. Eric Schliesser, to discuss the HOPT exam, and the accessibility of the lectures for neurodivergent students. should you have any concerns you might wish to forward, please do reach out by emailing

Okay - Quality of Education out of the way, let’s talk events. The Career Committee had our first Career Talks of the year on the 2nd of April. With a full room in Bar Bukowski, and an informative talk with Marius Troost, I’m delighted to report that this event was a gleaming success, drawing students from across the Bachelor, and Master programmes. Together with the Career Committee, the Education Committee has also had an eventful April, with the last Pub Lecture of the year being held on the 16th of April. Once again, a packed room in Café van Leeuwen, Alex Voicu delivered a lecture titled ‘Coping with Collapse: Facing Zombie Socialism, Vampire Capitalism and other monsters in Eastern Europe’, a Lecture on Eastern European Political Economy. A bittersweet moment for the committee, and for me - we ended a packed year of Pub Lectures on a fantastic note. 

The next month holds an event whose importance I cannot understate. The final Education Dialogue of the year, one that will be themed around the State of our Education. We’ll be covering all kinds of topics, including the level of teacher training, how the UvA’s stance on political conflicts affects the quality of our education, and more. 

Within the next month, the Career Committee will have had 2 events - the second Career Talks on the 24th of April with Esmé Bosma, Manager Financial and Forensic Crime for Deloitte at Brouwerij Troost De Pijp, and the Publistat in-house day on the 16th of May. 

Hope to see you there!

Lesa Fernandes