Recently an article was published that reflected on how students were dealing with high levels of stress and frustration. The title already revealed the proposed solution: ‘Geen deadlines in de kerst, geen herkansingen in de zomervakantie’ (no deadlines at Christmas, no resits in the summer holidays). However, this has little to do with what can make studying such a frustrating endeavour.
10.5 hour working days
The problems starts with the fact that on paper, students are expected to collect 15 ECTS credits every semester. Every semester consists of 10 weeks with the last two weeks dedicated to examinations. And every credit takes about 28 hours of work.
‘10.5 hours of study – just study! – every day’
That means that if you want to enjoy free weekends and be ready for the exams as soon as the examination period starts, you would need to dedicate 10.5 hours of study – just study! – every day.
Clearly their studies should be at the top of every student’s priority list. But with such high requirements TU Delft is forcing students to make it the only priority.
Quality – double standards
The quality of the material is another issue. Assignments that are described to only take four hours, for example, often take 16 hours instead. And in terms of lectures, teachers regularly fill the slides with equations and simply read them out during the lecture. This is especially annoying when, at the same time, students have to take courses on presentation skills, practice putting forward concepts clearly, and learn how to write proper reports.
Teachers also regularly get away with other shortcomings. For instance, while grades are required to be published within 15 days of the examination, they are infamously practically never kept and sometimes take months instead. This whilst students risk failing an entire course if they are one minute late for a deadline.
‘You realise that maybe it’s too much for them too’
These double standards mean that students cannot rely on their teachers and have to put in a lot of extra work that was not part of the course description. Of course, it may very well be that teachers experience the same level of stress that students experience. They are responsible for organising different courses, act as supervisors, and contribute their own research to TU Delft. That is a lot of work. And when you see a teacher come in and start the lecture without saying good morning, but simply reading aloud what is already written on badly put together slides, you realise that maybe it’s too much for them too.
The worst thing is that this is an unspoken problem. Students, when faced with these issues, will simply try to do whatever it takes to pass their courses. They often feel powerless against the demands of the teacher or are simply pressed in time. Communicating your issues to official bodies like the Examination Appeals Board in the only way allowed, through email, with the answer potentially only coming 20 days later, is extremely time consuming. Feedback forms, even when backed up by a student association, often seem to have little or no impact. And if there are results, these are rarely communicated back to the students.
In the end, whether it is the excessive workload or teachers falling short, it is the student who keeps taking the fall. So something needs to give. Summer resits are one of them!
Summer resits need not be done away with, but made more effective. It is the one time that students do not have to balance keeping up with new courses while preparing for a resit at the same time. Another step in the right direction is making teachers accountable for their mistakes.
Besides taking these type of measures, if the pressure is to be reduced, the flow of problems also needs to be reduced. Lowering the periodic 15 ECTS to 10 would be an idea. This would lead to seven hours of work a day instead of 10.5. Lunch in between, makes 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, one happy student. Sure, studies will take longer. Instead of a two year MSc it would be a three year one. But most students who can afford it, especially the Dutch, are already doing it in that length of time anyway.
- Marco Delgado Schwartz is an MSc student at the Delft Center for Systems & Control. He completed his BSc in Aerospace Engineering, also at TU Delft, where he did minor courses in electronics and applied sciences. He worked for three years at the DARE Dream Team, leading his own project team, and contributed to the Greenliner project. He balances his studies with sport, training at least five days a week.
- Also read about the outcomes of our survey among students and staff: Corona crisis hits TU Delft community hard