Avans University of Applied Sciences
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Avans University of Applied Sciences: An education with relevance

To Avans University of Applied Sciences, continuing to meet evolving industry demands is paramount. Hence why for the last 11 years, it has maintained its prestige as the best university of applied sciences in the Netherlands. To ensure every ambitious learner gets to experience its effective approach, the institution now boasts six Centres of Applied Research: Art, Design & Technology; Caring Society 3.0; Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy; Public Safety and Criminal Justice; Sustainable Business as well as Technical Innovation. All routes lead to enriching, experiential opportunities.

Learning by doing has been proven to be one of the best ways to pick up necessary skills, cementing lessons into students’ minds — be it through research or exposure to cutting-edge technologies. Collaboration takes things up a notch.

Avans University of Applied Sciences

Rinus Ribbens is a lecturer in the Industrial Engineering & Management programme. Source: Avans University of Applied Sciences

“During the last period of the second year, I let the students perform a group project,” explains Rinus Ribbens, lecturer at the Industrial Engineering & Management programme. “These groups of four or five students conduct research on new safety aspects. I choose these aspects every year. Most of these aspects are not conclusive and still in development. Examples could be Lithium Ion Batteries, the danger of hydrogen in industry and transportation, and the safety of AI systems. My goal is to let students study the present situation of these safety aspects and identify how their findings can benefit my curriculum.”

Group projects certainly help them apply theory into practice, but working alongside industry partners gives students a real sneak peek into their futures. “We use plenty of real-world scenarios and case studies in our IBC English courses,” says Chen Shen, International Business lecturer. “We also work closely with business coaches to design assignments that are truly helpful for our students to learn and grow.”

Avans University of Applied Sciences

Chen Shen is an International Business lecturer. Source: Avans University of Applied Sciences

The assignments Shen speaks of see lecturers and students conducting practice-oriented research for companies, governments, as well as social organisations. The results are then implemented in the school’s education. This is how modules stay steps ahead.

Since Avans has close ties with corporations in various industries, students effortlessly land one-year internships, which unlocks not only invaluable experience but potentially full-time employment as well.

For some, applying knowledge can even have world-bettering effects. A portion of Avans students are actively involved in applied research projects assigned by the companies. Recently, five interns designed, conducted and optimised experiments to help make the biochemical recycling of plastics more viable.

Avans University of Applied Sciences

Tommy Vorst is a lecturer and Personal Leadership & Intercultural Communication coach. Source: Avans University of Applied Sciences

While students at Avans wholeheartedly immerse themselves in the industry, their dedicated educators go above and beyond to enhance their skills and stay abreast of the latest developments. “I read obsessively, am addicted to Khan Academy, and engage daily with the global network of educators I’ve built up over the course of my career,” says Tommy Vorst, lecturer and Personal Leadership & Intercultural Communication coach. “It is part of my obligation as a professional to deliver that content as much and as effectively as possible to my peers.”

Shen keeps up with recent developments by attending industry-organised events. “I think the most relevant ‘industry’ for the courses I teach/coach, namely International Business Communication English, is the broad Dutch and international higher education,” she says. “I actively join conferences and workshops organised by higher education institutions to maintain and broaden my network.”

Staff commonly frequents conferences and workshops relevant to their respective subject areas, too. “I am super passionate about food production studies,” explains Thais de Castro Lima Varella, Environmental Science lecturer.

“Last year, I went to Turin for a conference from the Slow Food Movement. This conference happens bi-annually, and they have a five-day programme where people who work with sustainable food production share their experiences. Some of the topics they discuss are relevant to courses or projects at ESSET, for example, with information about greenhouse gas emissions, the impact of food waste and possibilities to avoid it, and flows of water, energy, and nutrients required in food importation and exportation.”

Avans University of Applied Sciences

Thais de Castro Lima Varella is an environmental science lecturer. Source: Avans University of Applied Sciences

With all this in mind, it’s clear that at Avans, the passion of the lecturers shines through as they, in collaboration with the university, diligently strive to provide students with the most up-to-date information, valuable hands-on experiences, and meaningful connections.

“I believe that what we teachers hold on to is the true will of wanting the best for our students,” says Varella. “It is our job to facilitate their growth and to care for them and the world we live in. This passion brings us a lot of energy to adapt and improve our study programmes — even in challenging times.”

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