Vision on education and the quality of education
Education is one of the three pillars at IHE Delft to achieve its mission of strengthening capacity in the water sector to achieve global sustainable development. Targeting early to mid-career professionals, the education programmes at IHE aim at addressing water challenges and contributing to global sustainable development, in particular to all Sustainable Development Goals in which water is key. The importance of water in sustainable development is highlighted in a number of international policies, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, e.g. SDG 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 2.5 and SDG 11.3, as well as the latest risk survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF, 2018), the agenda of the 8th World Water Forum, the report of the High-Level Panel on Water, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the Ramsar Convention and many others. These global challenges will expose future IHE Delft graduates to water problems of unprecedented complexity and magnitude. They therefore require a range of knowledge, skills and attitudes to be optimally prepared for these challenges and to contribute effectively to the development of integrated solutions.
IHE Delft graduates are expected to be critical, creative and independent thinkers and effective water professionals, who are able to connect and engage with a range of disciplines such as natural sciences, social sciences and engineering. They are expected to be able to work in environmental and societal complex contexts, with the ability to work productively in teams and take leadership. To achieve these learning outcomes education at IHE Delft is implemented in partnership and characterized by the following key values:
- International and interdisciplinary
- Science based but anchored in professional practice
- Student centred, on the basis of aligned teaching and active learning
- Relevant, geared towards creating impact on the ground
- Open, transparent and accessible
- Combining knowledge and transferrable skills
This is worked out in more detail below.
International and interdisciplinary
Global water problems require an interdisciplinary approach. The student population, teaching staff and guest lecturers at IHE Delft are very diverse in nationality, disciplines and cultural background. The majority of the students come from the Global South, but through our collaboration with Erasmus Mundus and European universities we also welcome European students. Our programmes and extra-curricular activities foster the international character and aim to make optimal use of the wealth of experience that our students bring. Examples of interdisciplinary activities that cut across our programmes include: ‘week one’ (the first module for all students in Delft), a wide range of elective modules, summer courses, group work and interdisciplinary MSc research topics jointly supervised by members from different disciplinary groups. Extra-curricular activities in which sharing of cultural and professional experience is central, include, among others, seminars, wicked debates, Asian, African and American nights and cultural trips. The sharing of diversity in experiences contributes to a more open attitude towards differences in points of view and ways of acting.
In order to optimize students’ stay and enable their learning conditions, over the years IHE Delft has developed a range of excellent facilities and services, geared to the needs of international students (for example, regarding administrative requirements, student well-being and intercultural exchange). The quality of these facilities and services, provided by the social-cultural office, influence the quality of education. We acknowledge that some of them (such as accommodation) are partly beyond our control.
Science-based thinking and anchored in professional practice
Our university master programmes embed research and scientific thinking in education. Students are exposed to state-of-the-art knowledge, ideas, methods, approaches and technologies, both in the taught part and during the MSc research phase. Water challenges discussed in class are placed in international contexts and scientific debates. Teaching staff are actively involved in research projects and translate their latest research findings in teaching material and exercises. Several modules deal with academic skills, such as scientific writing, literature review and critical reading and thinking, explicitly or through the use of assignments. Several MSc research topics are directly related to ongoing research projects and PhD studies.
At the same time, our education and research is anchored in professional practice. Ideally our students have several years of working experience in a related water field. Theoretic frameworks discussed in class are applied to practical examples provided by lecturers and/or linked to students’ own working experiences. Also, guest lecturers bring valuable experiences from their professional practice. During the MSc thesis research students learn to approach and critically reflect on challenges and questions arising from professional practice in a scientific and ethical way.
Student centered, active learning, aligned teaching
IHE Delft’s education adheres to the widely used principles of constructive alignment as developed by John Biggs and as taught in our UTQ programme for lecturing staff. These principles focus on the fact that students learn by doing. Lecturers facilitate the learning process of students by enabling them to continuously process new information and enrich and enlarge their knowledge with new experiences. To define the level of achievement, formulated in the learning objectives, optimal use is made of Bloom’s revised taxonomy, using active verbs and addressing different levels of mastering.
Key elements of our educational approach are:
- Active learning Learner-centered didactic methodologies promote active learning, and strengthen academic and professional skills. Solving problems in a creative and constructive manner will lead to an independent learning attitude and personal development. Existing knowledge is linked to new information by active participation of the students during the lectures and other lecturing activities (group work, lab and fieldwork, excursions etc.).
- Aligned curricula Learning objectives or outcomes, learning activities and assessments are aligned. This means that the level of thinking skills defined in the learning objectives need to be supported by relevant learning activities, while the assessment should also address the learning objectives and their specific level. Alignment is required at module level, but also at final programme qualification level. The principles of active learning and aligned curricula underlie all our education offerings (face2face modules, online ad short courses, MOOCs, GPDP’s etc.).
The high student/staff ratio (compared to surrounding university standards) facilitates small classes, frequent interactions and personal approach in MSc guidance. The curriculum includes specialization modules to deepen disciplinary knowledge and elective modules to broaden students’ perspectives. Some programmes have started to offer customized tracks in which students in consultation with a study coach compose the curriculum best fit for his/her need. Based on the positive experiences, IHE Delft will gradually introduce more individual learning tracks for students along with guidance, feedback and support, leading to MSc curricula based on student demands and needs. To optimally prepare students before coming to Delft we offer online preparatory courses. These are not compulsory but highly recommended for those who need to refresh their knowledge.
To enable flexible arrangements and suit different target groups, IHE Delft offers different modalities: students can follow MSc programmes fulltime in Delft, or in joint programmes with partner universities (partly delivered in Delft, partly at a partner university). An alternative option is to enable students to achieve an MSc degree at their own pace. In this mode, students accumulate credits over a longer period via a blended programme (face-2-face and online), ultimately leading to an MSc degree.
Relevant and geared towards creating impact
Our mission is to enhance the capacity of water professionals to address global challenges. Creating impact and facilitating transformative change towards achieving sustainable development is the focus of our MSc programmes and courses. Our education aims to be highly relevant, particularly for local development contexts. Education and research are solution orientated with case studies from various countries and settings. Students are exposed to new ideas and experiences not only through staff and teaching material but also from their peers. Through its activities IHE aims to forge international networks which remain active after graduation. An active alumni network organizes professional (and social) activities and refresher courses.
Long-lasting and equal partnerships in education are essential to strengthen capacity in the water sector to achieve global sustainable development. Several programmes and joint and double degrees are given in partnership with universities all over the globe. Staff exchanges and guest lecturers enrich our education. Where appropriate, we try to involve alumni in our education activities (as guest lecturers or in lifelong learning activities) and seek their feedback in strategic directions.
Open, transparent and accessible
IHE Delft strives for transparency, to enable all to see what we do and how, by acting and communicating in an open way so that students, staff, employers and other stakeholders know what to expect. Therefore, rules, regulations, programme and module descriptions, QA measures and accreditation reports are available to students and staff.
To enlarge our scope beyond the physical capacity at Delft we offer accredited online courses of which credits can count towards an MSc degree. Increasingly, we make our teaching materials freely accessible as open course ware (https://ocw.un-ihe.org/) and MOOCs. In the coming years we will substantially invest in open course ware and online and blended courses to make our education accessible to a larger audience.
Transferable skills and meta competences
Many of our graduates become a change agent in their field. To act successfully, besides knowledge they need additional, overarching skills, which may differ per curriculum. Examples of these transferable skills or meta competences include leadership, negotiation, creativity, entrepreneurship, academic and learning skills, complex thinking, interdisciplinary teamwork and collaborative skills. Some of these skills are incorporated in the didactic approaches used in regular modules (such as serious gaming, debating in class, group exercises). Some of the skills deserve a full module, such as science communication, leadership, project management and academic proposal writing, among others. Extra-curricular learning events also contribute to transferrable skills.
The academic education at IHE Delft contributes to forming digital literate water professionals.
The programmes aim at optimizing the ability to function in a digital society, where students know how to deal with a large quantity of data and information; value the quality of the data and information; and make use of Open source software and data. The education programmes use information technologies to support elements of the knowledge value chain: Data and information acquisition, creation, sharing, application, evaluation and publication.
The quality of the Institute’s educational products and processes is controlled at three levels. At the institutional level, the Academic Board is responsible for the development of IHE Delft’s education policies, guidelines, structures and regulations. At the programme level, the Programme Committees have overall responsibility for scientific rigour and administrative efficiency, and they report annually to the Academic Board. Finally, at the course level, Programme Coordinators are responsible for the day-to-day organization of courses and for supervising the contributions of all lecturers. They report to the Programme Committees.
IHE Delft degrees are awarded to participants who have successfully completed an MSc programme. These degrees are accredited by the Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organisation (NVAO) and are internationally recognized as university-level Masters' degrees.
The Institute complies fully with the quality control procedures of the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. All levels of the Netherlands education system are geared to achieving a creative, independent and internationally focused workforce. The higher education system offers a variety of courses in academic, applied and professional disciplines, and has an excellent international reputation. Foreign nationals who obtain part of their higher education in the Netherlands are well equipped to perform their functions anywhere in the world.