Over one thousand new first year students to complete Pre Academic Programme

RTV Rijnmond

This week more than one thousand new first year students will be completing Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Pre Academic Programme (PAP), thus earning their first academic certificate. The PAP allows students to get to know the university and develop their own identity. The programme, which is being taught completely online for the first time ever due to the coronavirus crisis, has attracted a record number of participants and is receiving very high ratings: an average 8.3 out of 10.

During the PAP, students learn how to effectively use their personal qualities to be successful students. Participants are asked to watch video lectures, read literature and perform individual assignments. Every week they meet online, in groups comprising 20 to 30 students, to exchange knowledge and expertise and perform more in-depth assignments. All groups are supervised by a team captain, i.e. a more advanced student specially trained to teach the course. Participation is voluntary and free of charge.

Completely online and internationally oriented

“When the coronavirus crisis began, we started looking into alternatives to our regular Pre Academic Programme at once,” says Rowan Huijgen, who is in charge of the programme. “We made a very quick decision to take the programme completely online. After all, the regular programme, taught on campus, had limited capacity and had been fully booked for the last few years. By deciding to teach the course entirely online, we allowed first year students of all degrees taught at EUR to take part. What makes it even more special is the fact that the programme has now been translated into English, meaning it is accessible to international students.”

Very high ratings

Judging from the record number of participants, there is a great demand for such preparatory courses among new first year students, now more than ever. One of the international participants had the following to say about the PAP: “Everything is beyond my expectations. The team captain gave us useful advice and everybody is so friendly and supportive. I couldn’t have asked for more.” A Dutch student said: “You are confronted with yourself, meaning you’ll become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses.” PAP participants are awarding the programme an average 8.3 out of 10.

Participants are more likely to successfully complete their degrees

A study conducted by Sanne van Herpen in 2019 shows that students who participated in previous editions of the PAP were awarded higher marks for their first examination than non-participants. This mark tends to be a good predictor for students’ ability to complete their degrees in the set amount of time. Participants are more likely than non-participants to be given the green light to progress to Year 2. The programme is particularly useful for students who do not have any academic role models, for instance because they are the first person in their family to attend a university, or because they are extremely nervous about making the switch from a school to a university.

Getting off to a good start: now more important than ever

EUR Rector Magnificus, Rutger Engels, was elated to see so many first year students take part in the programme. “It’s great to see that this year’s students are so incredibly motivated to make the most of their studies and to grab the opportunities presented in the Pre Academic Programme with both hands. Perhaps it’s not easy or fun to embark on your academic career during these times of crisis, but now more than ever it’s vital that people do so properly. It’s particularly vital for young people for whom the choice to attend a university was not that obvious. They will be certain to reap the benefits of the flying start to which they’re getting off now.”

Towards a ‘blended’ programme?

The success of this year’s programme has prompted the organisers to start considering next year’s programme already. “Teaching the programme online is definitely advantageous to many first year students,” says Rowan Huijgen. “This is particularly true for international students, and we wish to continue to allow them to avail themselves of that opportunity. It would be great if we could organise a blended programme next year, in which we combine the best of two worlds. This will allow students to attend some courses on campus, while performing other activities online, in their own time. What matters most, and will continue to matter most, is that we allow our students to get off to a flying start in their studies. We will choose whatever type of programme is best suited to that.”