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FSE departments are drowning in registrations

The biology and biomedical engineering departments are at risk of being overrun by new students next year. The faculty sent prospective students a letter to warn them.

The expected student numbers are ‘scary’, educational manager Rob Timmermans told the faculty council last week. Many departments, such as pharmacy, physics, and applied physics, are expecting a substantial increase in the number of students, but numbers are skyrocketing at the biology and biomedical engineering departments.

‘Biomedical engineering is a new programme’, Timmermans explained. ‘We aim for sixty students, but a hundred enrolled last year. We might even get two hundred students next year.’ Biology is expecting 350 students, a hundred more than they want, and sixty more than this year.

This is too much, the board says. Not that the faculty doesn’t want to grow, but it has to do so ‘under controlled circumstances’, says the board. ‘And only when we have sufficient room and facilities.’ 

Numerus clausus

Both departments have applied for a numerus clausus, which has been approved. Biomedical engineering will have a cap of 125 students, and biology will allow no more than 250 students. However, this cap won’t be active until next year. The department will have to accept students who are registering right now, even if there isn’t enough room or if there aren’t enough lecturers to teach them all. 

‘We have cause for concern regarding our ability to provide you with the world class education we intend to provide’, the faculty board writes in a letter to 470 pre-enrolled biomedical engineering students and 880 biology students. 

It encourages students whose first choice is Groningen to come to the city. ‘Rest assured that we will do our best to meet the programme’s high-quality standards as intended’, the letter emphasises. But the letter aims to warn those students who registered at multiple universities. ‘We ask you to take this information into consideration when making your final enrolment decision.’

Task force

In the meantime, a task force is working on ways to coordinate the influx of students. They’re considering unorthodox solutions like digital practical classes, extending PhD candidates’ contracts, or classes on Saturday. But because those would lead to other issues, like legal problems or already overworked lecturers doing even more work, it’s unclear which plans will ultimately be implemented.

Relaxation of the corona restrictions would help a lot, says biology programme coordinator and task force member Sander van Doorn. The restrictions mean the faculty is lacking in space. They’re also working hard to find new staff. 

It’s not an easy feat. ‘After all, I can’t just give up’, says Van Doorn. ‘But we’re pretty close to having to admit that we’re not going to get it done.’

Extra staff

The faculty board wants to help out the affected departments through Ruggesteun, the programme the board of directors has created to alleviate work stress in education. ‘We’re aware that many departments are having issues’, said Timmermans. He emphasised that other departments are also looking for extra staff. ‘But we felt we should use the funds where they’re most needed in September.’ 

‘The word is out ‘, Timmermans said, ‘there are simply too many groups. It’s too sudden a jump in the number of students. So I hope we survive the first semester next year.’

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