Leadership in Education Course: innovating in education is an art

The final session of ‘Leergang Onderwijskundig Leiderschap 2014-2015’ (Leadership in Education Course) took place in Rotterdam on Friday 28 August. The participants – programme directors and coordinators from the three LDE universities – presented the innovation projects they had developed and carried out in their own universities.


The Leadership in Education Course was designed specifically for them. Because no matter how good a researcher or lecturer you are, creating policy, developing innovations and playing the political game of soliciting support is a subject in itself.

Particularly now that university education is again receiving the attention it deserves, this specific skill is vitally important, according to the committee members Huib Pols, Rector Magnificus of Erasmus University Rotterdam and Anka Mulder, education portfolio holder at TU Delft (Delft University of Technology).

This will be the year of education,” said Mulder, referring to the recently-published Strategische Agenda (Strategic Agenda) from Minister Bussemaker, which “fits seamlessly with what we are doing in LDE terms in Delft.” Pols explained how in an earlier phase of his career (at Erasmus MC), he lacked the required expertise in teaching policy and management. “You are now learning that. And so I now hope to meet you as critical counsellors to the Executive Boards. Keep us on our toes.”

Here he was referring among other things to the strategic advice the participants had prepared in groups, and had offered to the university boards during the final session. It covered selection at the Master’s entrance, criteria for teaching quality, and a career in university education.

But their real masterpieces were the individual innovation projects, whose subjects ranged from introducing blended learning, to a review of an entire Master’s programme. Below we will highlight three, one from each university.

The subjects of the projects varied enormously, but naturally there were also shared experiences and pressure points. Thus for example, analysing the issues and coming up with a clever solution didn’t really turn out to be a problem for the participants, given that they were used to tricky brain-teasers. But they did often cite as a pressure point, creating political support, or getting extremely busy professors on-side – or even simply persuading them to attend a meeting. But it was of course also particularly these types of challenge which the course was intended to address.

The Educational Leadership Course was designed for the three universities by educational specialist Gerard Baars of Risbo (Erasmus University Rotterdam). The three universities were represented in its management.

Three innovation projects:

  • Lisette Langedijk of the Erasmus School of Law coordinated the transition to problem-driven teaching in the Law bachelor’s at Erasmus University. “A genuine change in culture.” Her task was to match together the objectives of the various subjects and attainment targets of the curriculum. Among other things her project led to the instigation of a curriculum commission.

    Read more: ‘The transition to problem-driven teaching in the Erasmus School of Law’

  • Kristiaan van der Heijden, Educational Director of the Pedagogical Sciences at the University of Leiden, discovered when starting that the practical internship in the Master’s programme was responsible for delaying studies. He investigated exactly what was happening (75% of the students were indeed struggling with study delays), and developed and implemented a well-designed internship policy. The reaction of a participant in the course: “So wouldn’t you like to come and talk to us in Rotterdam as well?”

    Read more: ‘Towards a well-designed internship policy for Leiden’s Master’s in Pedagogics’
  • Hans Welleman, Educational Director of Civil Engineering at the Delft University of Technology performed a revolutionary transformation of the existing Master’s programme in Civil Engineering (e.g. waterworks and other major infrastructural projects), enabling the university to achieve its ambition of delivering engineers with specialist knowledge and an integrated vision. The ultimate objective: a Master’s programme tailor-made for each student. “The good students already give careful thought to it themselves, and we want all students to do that.”

    Read more: ‘Towards training as a civil engineer with specialist knowledge plus integrated vision’