The MSc programme Development Studies (CROHO: 60731), hereafter International Development Studies, was assessed by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). At the request of Utrecht University, Quality Assurance Netherlands Universities (QANU) organised and supported the assessment. QANU convened an assessment panel which was approved by the NVAO. The assessment panel studied the self-evaluation report and undertook a site visit at Utrecht University on 21, 22 and 23 May 2019.
Standard 1. Intended internationalisation - excellent
The panel found that the internationalisation goals of the programme are an integral part of the programme’s mission. The goals are challenging and demonstrate a clear ambition to further improve the quality and internationalisation of the programme. The panel appreciates the manner in which the internationalisation goals are shaped to make students aware of the contextual nature of knowledge, which is always culturally based and interconnected with a particular worldview. It finds the awareness of ethical issues involved when entering in the international field of development studies a very pertinent addition. It feels that the programme’s approach to internationalisation suits a Master of Science programme very well and enables the programme to respond to the demands of the professional field and beyond. It ascertained that the nine objectives give an apt and feasible list of verifiable objectives that allow monitoring of the achievement of the programme’s internationalisation goals. The objectives clearly reflect the continuous efforts to take the programme to the next level with respect to internationalisation. The internationalisation goals described above, together with the nine internationalisation objectives, are strongly linked to IDSM’s overall quality of teaching and learning (and are expertly geared to improve it). The international perspective lies at the core of IDSM, as reflected in the internationalisation goals and objectives.
The panel deems all the underlying criteria of this standard to be systematically surpassed. The way in which research internships are shaped and implemented to test the students’ cross-cultural competences and to strongly add to their international perspective can be regarded as an international example. The panel therefore assesses Standard 1. Intended internationalisation as excellent.
Standard 2. International and intercultural learning - satisfactory
The panel found that the intended international and intercultural learning outcomes are a clear reflection of its internationalisation goals. They are well integrated, demonstrate a clear international orientation, and include relevant international and intercultural competencies that prepare students for a career in international development studies. The panel concludes that the methods used for the assessment of the students are suitable for measuring the achievement of the intended international and intercultural learning outcomes. The course assessment which the panel studied included criteria for the assessment of intercultural competences. It was surprised to find that the rubric used for the final thesis assessment lacks a separate item for explicitly assessing international and intercultural learning outcomes. It recommends that the programme add a separate item for explicitly assessing international and intercultural learning outcomes in the rubric that is used for the final thesis assessment. Based on the sample of theses it read, it is convinced that international and intercultural learning outcomes are sufficiently achieved in the theses, but would like to recommend that the programme explicitly show these learning outcomes and their assessment. It is convinced that labour market opportunities for graduates are good and values the programme’s continuous and directed effort to monitor, uphold and improve labour market opportunities.
The panel deems most of the underlying criteria of this standard to be systematically surpassed. It recommends adding a separate item for explicitly assessing international and intercultural learning outcomes to the rubric that is used for the thesis assessment. Although other parts of the programme do contain specific rubric elements to assess international and intercultural learning outcomes, and although the panel is convinced that these learning outcomes are achieved in the studied theses, it currently deems this a shortcoming with respect to criterion 2b: Student assessment. The panel therefore assesses Standard 2. International and intercultural learning as satisfactory.
Standard 3: Teaching and Learning - good
The panel found a clear correspondence between the curriculum and the intended international and intercultural learning outcomes clear. It observed that the content and structure of the curriculum provide the students with the necessary knowledge and tools to achieve all the intended international and intercultural learning outcomes. The teaching methods are very suitable for achieving the intended international and intercultural learning outcomes. A particularly strong asset of the curriculum is the compulsory three-month internship conducted in a global South setting, which is for many of the students a very important experience (often the first) in visiting and working in a development country. Another exemplary strength of the programme is the continuous reflection throughout the curriculum on intercultural competences.
The panel deems all the underlying criteria of this standard to be systematically surpassed. In its view, the compulsory research-oriented internship conducted in a global South setting and the continuous reflection throughout the curriculum on intercultural competences can both be regarded as international examples. It is convinced that these aspects can be regarded as exemplary practices. The panel therefore assesses Standard 3: Teaching and Learning as good.
Standard 4: Staff - good
The panel found that the composition of the staff facilitates the achievement of the international orientation of the intended learning outcomes and the included international and intercultural competencies very well. The diversity of the regional background of the staff functions as a role model for foreign students. Moreover, staff members have vast internationalisation experience and excellent intercultural competences and language skills. The staff, who have developed long-standing relationships with partners all over the world, play an important role in facilitating the students’ fieldwork. Therefore, the students are placed within an optimal learning environment. The services provided to the staff to gain international experience, intercultural competences and language skills are up to standard.
The panel deems all the underlying criteria of this standard to be met. The way staff members employ their long-standing relationships with partners all over the world to facilitate fieldwork that offers a rich, truly international and intercultural learning environment for the students can be regarded as an international example. The panel therefore assesses Standard 4: Staff as good.
Standard 5: Students - satisfactory
The panel found the internationalisation experience gained by students to be adequate and corresponding well to the programme’s internationalisation goals. Doing fieldwork abroad is without doubt the most intense and demanding element of the programme, but it is also highly valued by the students. The panel considers the services provided to the students to be adequate and in line with the student group composition and their international experiences. During their internship abroad, the students are guided very well by the staff. The contact with supervisors during the internship is excellent, and the staff actively deploy their networks to help the students find internships.
The panel deems most of the underlying criteria of this standard to have been met or surpassed. The guidance and contact with supervisors during the internship abroad can be regarded as an international example. The panel recommends that the programme continue its efforts to attract more international students, especially from the global South, to align with the orientation of the teaching and research of the programme done in the global South. It concludes that the composition of the student group is not yet completely in line with the programme’s internationalisation goals. It therefore assesses Standard 5: Students as satisfactory.
To conclude, the programme has successfully incorporated a significant international and intercultural dimension into the purpose, function and delivery of its education. Based on documented internationalisation goals, the programme has successfully implemented effective internationalisation activities which demonstrably contribute to the quality of teaching and learning. Thus, in accordance with the decision rule specified in the Frameworks for the Assessment of Quality in Internationalisation, the panel considers the overall assessment to be positive.