Joint-university degrees

In the past few years, TU Delft has introduced a number of innovative joint university degree programmes, encouraging international knowledge sharing and multidisciplinary idea exchange.

Some programmes are under the aegis of the 3TU network of TU Delft, Eindhoven University of Technology and University of Twente while others are with the IDEA-League, encouraging European universities to work together. There are also programmes in collaborations with other universities such as the University of Leiden and NUS Singapore.

One such is the MSc in Applied Geophysics, offered as part of the IDEA-League. Students spend a semester each at ETH Zurich, RWTH Aachen and TU Delft. “The purpose is to offer a high-quality program which covers more topics than each of us can deliver alone. This is one of the main benefits to the universities. It allows students to experience three different universities and life in three different countries. They meet more professors of geophysics than in single university program,” says Professor Evert Slob, the coordinator.

For students, it’s mostly a win-win. “We’re exposed to broader areas of expertise. For instance, at TU Delft we delved into oil exploration and at Zurich we were taken for field trips, including an archaeological land survey. Had we done an MSc at one university, it’s likely that our area of focus would also have been limited,” says Ali Alfaraj, a second year student of Applied Geophysics. Alfaraj, who is here on a scholarship from Saudi Arabia, adds, “We interact with other MSc students at all these universities, get a chance to soak in cultures, sight-see and party there,” he adds. 

Hui-Ling Chen from Taiwan is doing her MSc in Industrial Ecology. It is a joint programme offered by TU Delft and the University of Leiden. “We can choose electives in either university. We can also get involved with events and groups at both universities,” she says. This multidisciplinary course has attracted people from varied backgrounds such as anthropology and civil engineering. The focus is on sustainability and students have courses spread over the broader picture.

The universities strive to ease the logistical burden of frequent moves, but aren’t always successful. “Each university contacts us during the semester and informs us about available housing and arrangements,” says Peter Maas, MSc Applied

Geophysics. For some courses, things are not clear cut. “Our paperwork is processed by the University of Leiden which means we can only stay in student housing offered by Leiden. However, most of our classes are held in Delft so it might have made more sense to stay here,” says Chen. Administration is also confusing, she adds. “For instance, we paid our fees at one office but no notification was sent to the other one. If there are any administrative questions, no one knows whom to go to.”

Adjusting to a new academic ethic is never easy. “Professors in different countries have different expectations from students and vice versa. It can be puzzling at first, but you have to raise the bar and work harder,” says Maas. Chen offers a suggestion for universities with struggling students. “Hold a boot camp of sorts. A summer camp offering catch-up classes in different disciplines, so students can come a few weeks earlier and work on areas new to them. 

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