14 apr 2017

Benchmarking: Helsinki and Utrecht


During the  ‘Onderwijsparade 2017’ we got a visit by our fellow colleagues of the Teachers’ Academy of the University Of Helsinki. They wrote a blog about their visit here in Utrecht and would love to share it with you!

In mid-March, a group of educational delegates representing the University of Helsinki escaped a still wintery Helsinki to a sunny and spring-like Utrecht!

The aim of the trip was to benchmark with colleagues on issues related to the development of education and university pedagogy.

The first day was spent in Science Park where the educational models of the universities were introduced. After the introductions, we had the possibility to discuss various themes in detail.
The Honours programmes at Utrecht University aim to help excellent students to broaden and deepen their learning, to achieve higher skills and competencies for working life or doctoral studies. We gained a lot of ideas on how to develop honours practices back in Helsinki. The interesting WATCHME project was also introduced to us.

Admission and recruitment of students to graduate study: Utrecht University has been successful in recruiting international students. Especially streamlining admissions procedures so top applicants are quickly identified and accepted, was something that we in Helsinki could learn from. In addition, being in contact with applicants during the admissions process to help ensure that those admitted choose to attend, was an interesting idea.

The second day was spent on the City Centre Campus. We had several parallel discussions, one related to the research agenda. The Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE) is unique in its research-intensity and tight connections to the strategic leadership both at the university level and at the level of faculties. Especially the holistic, research-based feedback system HelsinkiUniLearn, developed by HYPE, raised the interest of our colleagues at Utrecht. Later, in the Parade a crucial part of the HelsikiUniLearn, the HowULearn system, was introduced.

In the session titled Educate-IT and Life-Long Learning we heard about what the rector of Utrecht University found out during his sabbatical leave around the world: the future is about life-long learning and opening up education. This requires teams that ‘orchestrate’ teaching, not just soloist teachers. IT is perfectly suited to matching the actors with different skills to form such teams.

We also learned about the activities of the Teaching Academy at Utrecht University (TAUU). The Academy has created several inspiring activities which encourage all the teachers at the university, such as connecting colleagues for discussing teaching innovations. This is certainly something that we would like to promote in the Teachers’ Academy of the University of Helsinki!

A truly inspirational finish to our visit was the Let’s Tango – Educational Parade in the beautiful Academiegebouw! Prof. Sally Brown gave a most entertaining keynote – and at the same time, echoing deep wisdom based on research and experience – on the diversity of university learning environments. Diversity manifests itself in the many forms of internationalization, but both the keynote and the workshops on this topic broadened our thinking about the very concept of diversity in teaching and learning.

Last but not least, in the digitalized and virtual world we live in, meeting with our Utrecht colleagues in person felt like a privilege. We had time to think, talk and reflect. The trip was fruitful for us but it also seemed that we had a lot to give to our colleagues at Utrecht University. This contributes, indeed, to ‘brighter minds and a better future’!

Mirjam Bok and her colleagues deserve a big Thank you!

Heel erg bedankt voor jullie gastvrijheid. Lang leve de samenwerking tussen de universiteiten van Utrecht en Helsinki!


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