AUC Next: The Future of AUC and the People Who Decide It

By Hazal Karaagac and Marit Grootswagers

Collage by Anna Sazonov

— With the popularization of what made AUC unique when it was established in 2009, AUC faces challenges to preserve its place among similar programs and adapt to the changes in the university environment. After initiating AUC21 in 2016 with the object of discussing the future goals, potential challenges, and the operation of the institution, AUC has now created AUC Next in order to allow students and staff members to help shape the vision of AUC for the next five years.

What exactly is AUC Next?
It is a project focusing on ways to improve the operation of AUC and formulating objectives and strategic choices that AUC could implement during the next five years. As a continuation of AUC21, it aims to rethink the strengths of the program, examine previous goals that have or have not been achieved, set new objectives, and do a periodic overall review of AUC’s curriculum.

What has already been done?
In June and July, a task force organized ‘brown bag’ sessions on Zoom to bring together students and staff to contribute, exchange ideas, and make an inventory of directions AUC could take. They each focused on five thematic groups that each represent the key elements of AUC Next: Mission and Values, The AUC Community, Curriculum (Contents), Curriculum (Organization), and Admission and Outreach. 

Emiel Robben, a second-year Sciences major, joined meetings from three sub-groups, Mission and Values, Curriculum (Organization), and Curriculum (Contents), believing that “something was missing”. Particularly concerned about the need to implement some changes for the unheard opinions of the students who follow a math and physics track, he wanted to join the sessions to “have a voice in the future of AUC”. 

What are some of the current challenges that AUC faces and the potential solutions for them?
In the November 2020 AUC Next report, “the lack of coherence” was seen as a challenge to the curriculum. Robben defined this as “a vagueness in the program due to the lack of a clear focus”. A possible way to deal with this issue is by adopting “a truly thematic approach” similar to Leiden University College and University College Freiburg. Another suggestion to the curriculum was associating the course material with more relevant global challenges.

Cooperating closely with the UvA and VU could be a potential solution to the organizational challenges. Addressing the misalignment of the different schedules of the UvA and VU’s lecturers could increase their share of teaching classes at AUC. Solutions to this included changing the 16-4 week system to 8-8-4 to smoothen the exchange of students and lecturers between AUC and the two partner universities.

How does AUC’s dean think that AUC should keep up with the competition among other University Colleges across the country?
With many innovative university colleges emerging across the Netherlands, AUC Next poses the question of how to keep up with this competitive environment. “There are two main distinguishing features about AUC”, says dean Martin van Hees. “There is a stronger base of sciences here compared to other UC’s and AUC cooperates with two large universities. The joint cooperation between AUC’s partner universities gives it an amazing infrastructure”.

When asking van Hees if he came here with a vision on how and whether to change things at AUC, van Hees pointed out that the way the question was phrased made it seem as if AUC needs improvement. “AUC is doing very well, it is not as much about improving things, it is more about asking the question of whether we are tuning up with the environment. For example, the notion of excellence has changed its meaning. It has become associated with students achieving the highest grades and a kind of elitism. We need to avoid such interpretations and go back to its original meaning that refers to individual growth and development.” 

Could the identity of AUC change by becoming a bigger part of the UvA and VU?
Van Hees states that AUC does not want to be a separate entity from the UvA and VU but wants to strengthen its connections precisely because it is part of its identity. “This will not affect the residential aspect. There will be enough things separating AUC, such as the dorms, the academic building, and small scale classes. AUC could just strengthen its identity by making more use of the two big universities.”

How can you contribute to AUC’s future?
You can attend the AUC Next sessions on the 28th of October (Curriculum contents & logistics) and the 3rd of November (Admissions, outreach & community). The sessions will be hybrid, taking place in the Common Room of the AB and via zoom.

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