Friday, June 20, 2014

Day Three: Utrecht

All aboard the bus to Utrecht.  We rolled out nice and early to visit our first campus.  This modern looking University was not really what I had expected.  First of all sheep grazing between two huge modern buildings was almost comical.  Secondly, the campus had the appearance of an industrial park rather than a school.  Upon entering the academic building, the industrial feeling increased exponentially.  All I could think was what a depressing, ugly building.  Later we were told the building was built as a temporary location, but that was twenty plus years ago.

In the class room we learned more about the institution and that there is no air conditioning.  Utrecht has every discipline except engineering, and is particularly proud of its Veterinary program, the only one in the Netherlands.  The tuition for all European Union schools is 2300 Euros a year and for non EU students it is 8,000 to 12,000.  Interestingly, prior to the Bologna agreement, no student left university without a Master's degree.  Even though students can now technically graduate with a Bachlor's degree they are not prepared to enter the job market.  Another interesting development is the shift from a national grant program to a student loan model.  These loans are currently most generous with no interest and repayment required only if you are earning minimum wage, and you have 35 years to pay them back.  Our speaker feels this will impact student behaviors, but with rates like that what might change?

The school is focusing on improving retention rates.  New students must earn 45 out of 60 credits and if they do not they must leave Utrecht and cannot return in the same program.  Student discipline is not handled by the institution, and when asked how issues are dealt with the simple answer was "call the police".  This led to the most interesting revelation of the entire visit.  Our speaker, Arjan VanVeilt admitted to a growing frustration with parents and increases in liability lawsuits.  He then stated he hopes they don't become like the U.S. 

At last we broke for lunch, which ironically enough was services by Sydexo.  The lunch was, what we would come to learn as the standard in this part of the world, soup and very bread heavy sandwiches.  Water, orange juice, and milk were our beverage choices though we were all dying for some caffeine!  Like any busy university dining hall, the space was bustling and noisy. This made it very hard to hear the student who sat at our table.

Ingeborg 2 walked us around campus and then the old city.  We did not have much time in the city of Utrecht, which was beautiful, and shortly after our tour began it started to rain.  When we met up at our rally point, Tony and Lori had found a Belgian fry shop which meant a detour for several of us.  The fries were well worth the trek and we enjoyed them on the long bus ride to Ghent.

Rounding the corner and seeing Ghent for the first time took my breath away.  The old city is stunning.  We were not terribly hungry but since it was our anniversary we made our way into town for a small bite to eat and a champagne toast.
 As we walked back to the room, we decided we could actually make room for this...

Speaking of rooms, our hotel is phenomenal.  I was more than excited to take a shower and relax in the spa quality robe.  Another early morning, so time for lights out!

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