Most people don’t get swag for finishing a master thesis, but RUG philosophy student Toske Andreoli got a tablet, a sit-down with education minister Van Engelshoven, and a load of personal messages.
The tablet and the discussion with the minister came courtesy of the National Student Union (Landelijke Studentenvakbond, or LSVb), who gave her the 2018 LSVb Thesis Award. The private messages came from students who recognised themselves in Andreoli’s writing. ‘Some of their stories are really sad.’
Andreoli’s thesis, De mooiste tijd van je leven? (The best time of your life?), is about the problems that today’s students all seem to struggle with: stress, high work pressure, insecurities, exhaustion, burnouts. In response, institutions of higher education are hiring psychologists, guidance counsellors, and mindfulness coaches en masse.
But Andreoli says that’s the wrong approach. It lays the burden on the students, even though university culture and government policy play a large role in determining their environments.
Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven presented the award on Friday, praising Andreoli’s work as ‘good research about an important topic’. Andreoli hopes that minister’s compliments weren’t just for optics. ‘I do think she’s taking the theme seriously. She also fought to lower the bsa norm.’
If it were up to Andreoli, the bsa would be scrapped altogether. ‘The university should be more of a social community. That would be an ideal situation.’ If a student doesn’t feel at home in their programme, lecturers could talk to them personally. ‘People should just be able to talk about it. We don’t need that whole rigorous binding study advice breathing down students’ necks.’
Andreoli doesn’t know whether she wants continue studying the topic. ‘I’ve done so much with it already. Maybe it would be better to use my findings for something else.’
She often holds lectures at research universities and universities of applied sciences. And she takes time to answer all the private messages. ‘They are often from people who share all these inspiring posts like “you make your own success” on their personal pages. But in private they tell me about the hard time they had studying, and that they feel lonely. It’s kind of harrowing.’