The Forestry and Nature Management study programme offered by VHL University of Applied Sciences (VHL) in Velp received its crowning glory yesterday: four stars for the Sustainable Higher Education quality mark from AISHE (Auditing Instrument for Sustainability in Higher Education). In an online session with lecturers, students and staff, the auditors indicated that the team can be rightfully proud of the result achieved. Of the five 4-star study programmes in the Netherlands, Forestry and Nature Management is the third VHL study programme (after Coastal and Marine Management and Environmental Science) to achieve this title. VHL was recently recognised as the most sustainable higher education institution by obtaining the SustainaBul.
During the audit in February, corona was still a long way away. Now that reality looks different, the audit committee makes an explicit appeal to Forestry and Nature Management. The programme should make use of its strength in transitioning to the new normal, precisely because there is more interest in nature and a demand for knowledge to make business models more sustainable. This could be done, for example, by forging sustainable alliances with network partners. A proud Saskia Heins, deputy director of Delta Areas and Resources, adds: “Our modesty can be put aside for once!” Heins illustrates the importance and current character of the programme based on its ongoing research into the perception of nature in corona times, which is being conducted by students of the Man & Nature minor. She thanks everyone who is so passionately committed to the programme and helped gain the accreditation.
In recent years, the educational team of Forestry and Nature Management has invested considerably in a vision that has sustainability (‘being there for a sustainable world’) as one of the three pillars. The audit team indicates that there is a great deal of expertise in the field of sustainable development, that this expertise is systematically kept up to date, and that knowledge and expertise are developed in collaboration with the professional field.
The educational team and the professional field agree on the competences that students should aim to develop. Students are trained to be agents of change in the making with a proactive, entrepreneurial and critical attitude. Students endorse this by reflecting on their own actions, for example. The audit team says that graduates are certainly able to clarify and contribute to the significance of sustainable development for professional practice.
Overall, the audit team sees a training programme that invests in the future-oriented and future-proof training of students. The audit confirms that, in terms of the professional field, the programme succeeds in this respect.
The consultancy organisation Hobéon uses the assessment framework known as Auditing Instrument for Sustainability in Higher Education (AISHE) for the Sustainable Higher Education quality mark. AISHE is used to measure sustainable development in colleges and universities. The quality mark has five development levels. From development level three onwards, an organisation can apply for the special feature ‘sustainable higher education’ at NVAO. Assessment takes place on the basis of self-evaluation, a document analysis and (audit) conversations with management, lecturers, students, support staff and the professional field. The quality mark is valid for three years, after which re-certification is carried out.
For more information, please contact Daan van der Linde, lecturer at Forestry and Nature Management, at [email protected].