Master of Science in Biology

Quality assurance

People who dare to think about the challenges of tomorrow, that is what we aim for. That is why education at our university is firmly anchored in six major objectives.

  1. Think broadly. Thinking as broadly as possible and offering the opportunity to question oneself. Not only Dare to Think, but also dare to change the way of thinking.
  2. Keep researching. Research is the foundation of our education. Ghent University keeps linking its way of educating to the dynamics of science.
  3. Support Talent. Everyone starts with equal opportunities. Every students gets the opportunity to develop their talents, regardless of gender, cultural or social background.
  4. Build with us. Students, staff, the government and the corporate world all get the chance to contribute to the contents and form of our high quality education. Ghent University is known for its particularly active students in student participation, of which we are very proud.
  5. Push boundaries. We want to prepare our students internationally and interculturally. We give them the opportunity to gain experience across borders. We also open our doors for students from all over the world and welcome teachers and academic staff from abroad.
  6. Choose quality. Constant quality assurance and improvement is an integral part of our culture and we communicate about it openly. We are proud of the level of our university.

Ghent University sees the quality of education as an internal self-evaluation process, in which faculties and programs compare the goals they have set themselves to the achieved results and adjust the policy accordingly. The portfolios constitute an important link in this process. The achieved results are based on quantitative and qualitative information from relevant stakeholders (students, teachers, professional field, international experts, alumni, etc.).The ‘peer learning visits’, the yearly quality meeting and the Education Quality Office (‘OKB’) make sure the PDCA cycle is closed at various policy levels and help to keep the improvement policy sharp.

A detailed description of how Ghent University is constantly paying attention to quality assurance and quality culture can be found in the Ghent University Conduct of Educational Quality Assurance (ERGO).

 

Quality of this study programme

This quality assurance system provides information on the assets, the strengths and the points for improvement for every study programme. A summary for this study programme can be found below:

 

Assets of the study programme

  1. Multiperspectivism: Students start the programme with a broad scientific basis and blossom into multiple specialised subdisciplines of biology, which enables the development of multidisciplinary visions. On top of that, the importance and usability of biology in society is situated broadly, which enables the students to grow into critical and social conscious thinkers (nature conservation, sustainable development, climate change, bioethics, etc.). The numerous group activities also create a stimulating environment to interactively adopt a problem solving approach from different points of view.
  2. Talent development: During the broad bachelor programme students can acquire the necessary experience to discover their own interests and talents. This is implemented in the master programme by means of choices in majors, minors and elective courses, and especially by the master’s dissertation. The choices that have to be made in the master are also based on the student’s professional interest: research, education, or entrepreneurship. By means of specific methods tools are exploited to stimulate the consciousness of their own talents within a professional context (e.g. organisation of symposia, application letters, professional internship, etc.).
  3. Knowledge creation: The programme strives for a balance between knowledge creation and practical competences, which are applied as integrated (interdisciplinarily) as possible. Critical, analytical and problem solving thinking are central to come to a well-founded communicable synthesis and solution. The programme is based on an extensive research expertise of the teachers involved, who supply teaching from their own specialisation and excellence.
  4. Programme: The master programme in English focuses on research profile (learning pathway ‘Research Biology’) or on education or entrepreneur profile (learning pathway ‘General Biology’). The major programme is based on the core expertise of the researchers of the department of Biology: ‘Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology’, ‘Functional Biology’ and ‘Global Change Ecology’. Depending on the profile elected there are further options and there is possibility of exchange with international universities.
  5. Integration theory and practice: The Biology master programme includes a balanced combination of lectures and a comprehensive set of practical methods (in the laboratory, the computer room, the field, the lecture hall, etc.). Individual or group assignments stimulate the creative and critical handling of scientific issues, and the ways to implement this with certain target groups (other students, policy makers, companies, etc.). For this stimulation, the programme relies on a further growing process of scientific integrity, communicative competences, technical and analytic competences.

 

Quality assurance: strengths

  1. Educational strategy and objectives: The programme (reformed in 2013) is based on a well-considered educational strategy: “school ‘creative and reflective practitioners’, who can efficiently apply their problem solving thinking within a realistic (professional) context, by means of a process of constant evaluation and adjustment to their learning and mental processes”, which has been designated as ‘excellent’ by the visitation committee. This strategy has been translated amongst others into a programme structure and options that guide the students towards a more conscious professional profile. At master’s level the educational strategy reflects the policy strategy of the department of Biology, which assures the quality of education by experts from the focus field concerned.
  2. Broad scientific basis: The bachelor programme already provides a broad scientific basis, captured in about three learning pathways (functional biology, biodiversity and evolution, and ecology). These pathways allow the students to make conscious choices in the master programme which reflect their interests and talents, and which, nevertheless, stimulate interdisciplinarity.
  3. Integration theory and practice: The lectures’ theory is extensively linked to a whole range of active methods (whether or not in teams), in which integration (of interdisciplinary information and techniques) and critical introspection are central.
  4. Analytical competences: Research competences in biology require extensive analytical competences in statistics. Throughout the programme the students have the opportunity to develop the statistical and analytical competences necessary and to apply them in research (and in professional contexts).
  5. Communication and approachability: The programme attaches great importance to an efficient communication structure, both between the teaching staff (as part of quality assurance), and with students (courses and active methods aimed at the acquisition of competences in communication with a whole range of target groups). The teaching staff’s approachability stimulates an active data flow in both directions.

 

Quality assurance: focus points with action plan

  1. Entrepreneurship: The implementation of activities which stimulate entrepreneurship in students is limited at the moment, as is the biology students’ interest in that topic. The programme would like to change this by means of a renewed minor programme which is focused on the satisfaction of the specific needs and interests of Biology master’s students and which will be, therefore, more attractive.
  2. Integration practical methods: The current programme structure of the curriculum implies that practical methods are programmed within the individual courses, while interdisciplinarity and integration would be encouraged if this would be realised cross-curricularly. The programme will conduct a feasibility study to disconnect practical methods from individual courses, and to integrate them into a coordinating integrative practical.
  3. Feedback: Students are right to wish for more interim feedback on the assignments completed during the year. Teachers are stimulated to communicate their expectations of performances more clearly and more frequently.