Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 5: Kent at Brussels

Up bright and early to bus to Brussels.  The co-hort is a little bummed that we will only have 2 and a half hours in Brussels. Last night, I spoke to Ingeborg about extending our time and she stated that was impossible.  I must admit the schedule at this point has become a little tedious.  I think this is exascerbated by the fact Chris is getting to see twice the sights.  I have remind myself I am not here as a tourist, but knowing that I will likely not pass this way again makes it hard not to get frustrated.  It was nice to catch a little cat nap on the bus, but the traffic was horrific. 

Once we finally arrived at the University of Kent, Brussels campus we were ushered into a computer lounge/ student area.  The site is located in an office park which made me think of some of the for-profit institutions in the States, and the suite does feel more officey rather than scholastic.  The talks took place in a separate classroom.

We were introduced to the two chief administrators, and learned a good deal about the University of Kent located in Canterbury in addition to the Brussels Center.  They make a purposeful distinction between campuses and centers.  The University has chose several of these sites based on their locations for intensive graduate experiences.  Brussels was chosen for the political entities (NATO, the Head of the EU, and more lobbies than Washington D.C.).  They have other sites in Greece and Paris for archeology and art respectively.

The challenges of running an off-site location in a different country are fascinating.  Also interesting were the hoops the institution jumped through to appease other entities i.e. FAFSA regualtions.  The mean age of the student is 28 with 30% coming from the U.S., 40% from Europe, and the rest from other parts of the world.  The Master's degree can be earned in twelve months and the cost is 16,500 Euros.  This is signifigant beccause most other schools do not charge for a Master's.

One of most impactful statements made during the talk was the importance of "managing expectations" with new students.  They feel that is the way to break down entitlement. I will take that statement with me and use it frame the work I do in student services. 

We went on to talk about the British funding model for higher education, which is evolving.  The Brits have moved from a block funding model to a full time enrollment model with student loans.  These loans are very similar to those in the Netherlands with no payback until a baseline income is reached.  The loans are forgiven after 30 years.  Currently there has been no change in enrollment.

After a lunch of heavy hors d'oeurvers, we finally got to see Brussels.  It was another unexpectedly hot day and there were so many people in the city.  Knowing we only had two hours made it difficult to decide what to do.  I wished I had made a plan for seeing the most important things in the city.  We took the short walk to the mannequin pis, which I must admit was so much smaller and less impressive than I had expected.  The town square was everything I had imagined.  We wandered somewhat aimlessly through the streets, sampled local delicacies, and bought some chocolate. 


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