Prestigious Bachelor of European Studies still to be improved

'No problems have been brought to our attention yet.'

This academic year, a second generation of students has enrolled in the fairly new Bachelor of European Studies. The students are generally positive about the bachelor, but also make mention of some rookie mistakes.

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What is a joint bachelor?

A joint bachelor is a degree offered and developed by various educational institutions.

In the case of BAES, there are nine European universities collaborating under the name of Una Europa, a European university alliance.

The Bachelor of European Studies (BAES) has been around for a year and a half now. It is the first joint bachelor KU Leuven offers. The degree is being managed by the faculty of Social Sciences, in collaboration with eight other European universities.

However, there still appear to be areas for improvement in the program. Eight students offered their opinion to Veto. They are overall content, but note some administrative and substantive defects. 'Communication between the universities doesn't always run smoothly', says second-year student Sonja*. Many other students support this.

'We must always take a step by step approach at how to fit the BAES into our educational structures'

Kolja Raube, program coordinator of the Bachelor of European Studies

'No problems have been brought to our attention yet', states Kristof Moeskops, chairman of the Faculty Consultative Body for Social Sciences (FOSO). 'Not even from the POC (permanent education committee, ed.), since only major problems reach us through them.'

Kolja Raube, program coordinator of BAES, however understands the criticism: 'The program is still under development. We must always take a step by step approach at how to fit the BAES into our educational structures. That inevitably takes time.'

Back to covid times?

The criticism about the program was primarily directed at there being too many mandatory online classes. Professors at the different collaborating universities have to teach all students at the same time, and so some classes have to be streamed from Bologna. 

'Before we started this bachelor, they did communicate that this would be happening often during the program', says Jasper*, a first-year student. 'But they told us it would mainly happen during the first semester of the second year.' That didn't seem to be the case.

Jasper explains that some international students who start the program don't find it worth their time to actually be in Leuven, especially since they can follow the online classes from home. Another student mentions it being the reason she stayed in Germany: she wouldn't have to pay for dorms that way. That's quite remarkable for a bachelor centered around international experiences.

'By next year it will be very clear for students what master studies they can pursue'

Kolja Raube, program coordinator of the Bachelor of European Studies

'That is something we indeed hear about frequently from students', professor Raube admits. 'We have been trying to make the online classes as pleasant as possible by, for example, streaming classes in auditoriums. In the end, it's the students who decide if they prefer to follow the classes from home or in group settings. Only by next semester will it be mandatory for all online classes to be live-streamed on campus.'

Prospects for the future

For many students it isn't all that clear what their options for the future are after BAES. At the moment, there haven't been any graduates yet. It remains unclear which master's programs the students will be able to pursue, and whether they have acquired sufficient skills from the bachelor's program. There are currently questions arising about whether the existing curriculum will be in line with that of the bachelor's. The program is still being fine-tuned.

'I still don't have a clue what master I'm going to be studying'

Sonja, first-year student

The BAES website mentions some links to possible master programs that students can start at KU Leuven or at foreign partner universities. Although at this moment in time, it isn't clear yet which conditions must be met to start these programs.

According to coordinator Raube, that will be changing soon. 'By next year, it will be very clear for students which master's programs they can pursue and what steps they need to take, such as enrolling in a bridging program.

'That would be on time for the first students l graduate from BAES upcoming summer, yet some concerns remain among students: 'I still don't have a clue what master I'm going to be studying. We should have received the information already from the person responsible. We haven't received any information about internships either', explains Sonja.

In this regard, the program can be an example of how to make international students feel more welcome at the university

For some students, the program feels rushed, despite the stimulating marketing surrounding the bachelor. For some people, it has the image of a prestigious program. Especially since the bachelor asks for a higher allowance than other Belgian study programs. Besides, the BAES would ensure easier access to exclusive internships at European institutions, only adding to this perception of being a prestige-bachelor. 

After rain comes sunshine

Students describe the BAES as a chaotic program that has a great deal of things to improve upon. Sonja emphasised multiple times that communication does happen, but not about the things that really matter. 

Nevertheless, students also see the unique chances the bachelor offers . It's the only bachelor program that offers different periods of mobility, each time at various universities. 

In general, most students feel welcome in the BAES. 'We are a small community and, in my opinion, that's one of the biggest benefits of this program', says Maya, a first-year student. The BAES has a group chat where students communicate daily, not just to exchange course material, but also to organise activities.

According to her, the bachelor, in that regard, can be an example to welcome and involve the thousands of other international students at the university.

*Jasper and Sonja are fictional names

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