Master’s here, master’s there

How do TU Delft’s master’s degree programmes rank compared to those offered at other Dutch universities?

‘Creative chaos’ at the faculty of Architecture. (Photo: Hans Stakelbeek/FMAX)
‘Creative chaos’ at the faculty of Architecture. (Photo: Hans Stakelbeek/FMAX)

The Higher Education Press Agency (Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau) compared 474 of the 1,300 master’s degree programmes offered in the Netherlands, basing their final assessments of each programme on information from the National Student Survey and from assessment reports made for the accreditation of university programmes.

According to the Keuzegids, TU Delft’s final overall ranking for its master’s programmes was 58 out of a possible 100 points, which placed the university among the weakest performers, together with the University of Utrecht and Vrije University Amsterdam. Wageningen University and Nyenrode University had the highest overall scores: 69 points out of 100.
Among the three Dutch universities of technology, TU Eindhoven had the highest overall ranking, according to the Keuzegids. Following the evaluation of 13 master’s programmes at TU Eindhoven, the university earned 63 points. TU Delft’s 58 points were based on the assessment of 21 master’s degree programmes. The difference between the universities was largely found in a few programmes, including physics, human technology and innovation sciences.

The TU Delft MSc programmes assessed produced varying scores, despite the fact that TU Delft has for years now invested in its curriculum, training of teaching staff, facilities and logistics processes, according to Anka Mulder, TU Delft’s director of education and student affairs. 
Applied mathematics and management of technology, for example, were ranked at the top of their respective fields. Computer engineering and chemical engineering however were ranked at the bottom.
Mulder found some of the Keuzegids assessments questionable: “So, mechanical engineering scored low in the Keuzegids, but scored well in the Elsevier rankings.” Moreover, for some programmes the assessments were based on surveys conducted in 2006, and, in addition, some programme assessments were based on extremely small survey samples. Mulder: “For life science & technology, nine students were surveyed.”
The Keuzegids survey revealed that TU Delft students frequently complain about studeerbaarheid (i.e. studyability, or the ability to complete their courses in the time period allotted). Delft students, Mulder confirms, take the longest of all students in the Netherlands to complete their studies.

Industrial design
TU Delft’s design for interaction and TU Eindhoven’s industrial design were the top-ranked programmes, earning 69 out of 100 points, with particularly high grades for programme content, the range of course options and course cohesion. TU Delft students found their course load lighter than their Eindhoven counterparts. TU Delft’s strategic product design (65 points) and the TU Twente’s industrial design engineering (59 points) had average scores. TU Delft’s integrated product design scored 53 points. Overall, the Keuzegids recommended TU Eindhoven’s programme, but called TU Twente and TU Delft ‘not a bad choice’.

Dean Cees de Bont:
“Compliments for Eindhoven for setting up a programme with character. Our students are more critical. Integrated product design was - at the time of the Bama system’s implementation - a continuation of a former programme. The other two master’s programmes were new and scored very high.”

Architecture
According to the Keuzegids: ‘If you feel at home in creative chaos, then a master’s in architecture at TU Delft is perhaps the perfect place for you. But if you want more structure and discipline, then you should surely head for TU Eindhoven – or the civil technology programme at Twente University’.
Student assessments were only available for architecture, urbanism & building sciences at TU Delft, and architecture, building and planning at TU Eindhoven. Both programmes had scores that were clearly lower than the national average for all master’s degree programmes. The fact that top architects give lessons at the universities is apparently no guarantee for creating a cohesive program that prepares students well for their practical careers. Students were critical of the courses and their instructors. TU Eindhoven scored 52 points, while TU Delft scored 45 points. The university’s teachers and facilities were valued higher, however.

Dean Wytze Patijn:
Patijn finds the term ‘creative chaos’ positive: “We place a premium on self-efficacy and creativity. With us, you must do it yourself. You aren’t led by the hand. Improvisation and self-sufficiency are part of the studies.”

Mathematics, Electrical Engineering Computer Science, Human-machine interaction

Mathematics
Evaluated programmes scored good to very good. Of the five evaluated master’s, TU Delft’s applied mathematics and the Leiden’s mathematics scored best: 75 points.

Electrical engineering
Master’s in electrical engineering were fairly similar in terms of the quality assessment, with most programmes regarded as good. The TU Twente programme scored 71 points, higher than both Delft (63) and Eindhoven (64), but the difference is rarely decisive, says the Keuzegids.

Computer science
TU Delft students are a bit more satisfied than students at TU Eindhoven and TU Twente regarding the content, course selection and course cohesion. VU Amsterdam scored somewhat better than TU Delft, but TU Delft, TU Twente and the Open University ‘get applause for the broad range of course choices’.

Human-machine interaction
For master’s in human-machine interaction, TU Delft’s media & knowledge engineering (57 points) was not ranked among the leading programmes. Students and experts rated TU Eindhoven’s programme as the best (total score 79 points), owing to its project-focused curriculum and teachers.

Herman Russchenberg, director of education, EEMCS
“Mathematics is intensely focused on didactics, because that is the foundation course for technical educations. That translates well in the assessments.”

TU Delft’s systems and control engineering programme is king with 89 points. Trailing a bit behind but also scoring well were TU Delft’s aerospace engineering programme and TU Eindhoven’s medical engineering programme, both with 77 points.
At all the Dutch TUs, the mechanical engineering programmes were assessed as highly satisfactory. TU Delft received little criticism, but also few compliments. The TU Delft course marine technology scored a weak satisfactory.

Technology and policy
Among students, TU Delft master’s in management of technology is the absolute best, earning a string of compliments, from cohesion to feasibility. Experts also praised innovation sciences at TU Eindhoven.

Els van Daalen, director of education (Technology, Policy and Management):
“It’s not a problem if our programmes are difficult. But we do want more of our students to finish their studies in the allocated time. Delays in graduating often stem from the graduation project phase of the course.“

Biology and life sciences, physics, chemistry and chemical technology

Biology and life sciences
According to Keuzegids, the education offered in life sciences and bio-informatics ranges from good to very good. Yet the Leiden/Delft life science and technology programme ‘only’ scored 65 points. Wageningen University’s programme molecular life sciences was the big winner, with 85 points.

Physics
Students at TU Eindhoven were more positive in their assessments of applied physics than TU Delft’s students. TU Eindhoven students highly valued their teachers, course cohesion and career preparations. TU Delft students gave these criteria an average score. The total score of the programmes: Eindhoven 85 points, Enschede 71 points and TU Delft 67 points.

Chemistry and chemical technology
TU Delft (55 points) scored lower than TU Twente (64 points). Students found TU Delft significantly more difficult and gave teachers and course cohesion lower grades than at TU Twente.

Rob Mudde, director of education (Applied Sciences):
“TU Delft students are more critical. But being critical is allowed and is a sign of maturity. Live with it and ensure that improvements are made. We have no master’s programme to be ashamed of.”

Civil Engineering
TU Delft (civil engineering) and Eindhoven (civil engineering and management) scored well. TU Delft received 68 points, while TU Eindhoven 60 points. TU Delft offers more ‘heavy’ construction courses and is regarded as the place to be for those wanting to become specialists in heavy construction, like bridge building and railway construction.

Dean Louis de Quelerij:
“I see in this positive assessment an investment in the quality of our educational curriculum. The right combination of a difficult beta core with concrete applications makes this master’s programme not only extremely challenging but also offers graduates outstanding job market perspectives, both nationally and internationally."