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Full steam ahead for the highly talented

11 November 2005, 21:03

A doubling of the number of Honours Classes and advanced plans for more extensive Honours tracks/programmes. Never before has Leiden University given so much consideration to the gifted student.

A doubling of the number of Honours Classes and advanced plans for more extensive Honours tracks/programmes. Never before has Leiden University given so much consideration to the gifted student.

Van Haaften: ‘We want to give the highly talented the opportunity to really get to grips with challenging activities, at as early a stage as possible.’ Since 1st September 2005, the number of Honours Classes offered in Leiden has been broadened considerably. In previous years, an average of between 5 and 8 programmes were offered each year, whereas this academic year there are thirteen.

Also, the classes are now accessible for second and third year bachelor students, instead of only for fourth and fifth years, which used to be the case. Leiden University is also planning to experiment with more extensive Honours programmes. Honours classes are intended to provide a greater challenge for specially talented and motivated students.

An Honours Class is (in most cases) a class taught in English where twelve to fifteen selected students receive twelve lectures, each from a different prominent guest lecturer from the scientific or practical world. Each lecture is concluded with a discussion. The guest lecturer will set literary texts which have to be read in advance to prepare for the lectures, and each week a different student will act as respondent.

In the Honours Classes, students will become acquainted with prominent, mainly foreign, researchers from their field of expertise. The classes are interdisciplinary and research-oriented, and relate to a subject outside the standard curriculum. Participation in an Honours Class does not generate any study points, but it does provide a certificate and is also mentioned on the student's degree certificate. Leiden University was the first university to offer, in 1994, small scale, international education to highly talented students. Initially there were two or three Honours Classes per year.

In the past decade this has been gradually extended to five to eight. This year the number will be doubled. The Executive Board is making 180,000 euro available for this kind of education, which means that it is now possible to offer thirteen Honours Classes. These are spread over four different scientific areas: humanities (4), law (3), social sciences (3) and medical sciences (3). These Honours Classes are very successful, but Leiden Unviersity wants to do even more to select talented students at an early stage and to foster a strong relationship with them.

Plans have been developed to experiment with education so that the talented students have the opportunity to become acquainted with advanced research early on in their studies. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is making subsidies of 60,000 euro per programme available for educational experiments with this focus group as part of their 'Ruim Baan voor Talent' initiative.

Leiden University has submitted three programme proposals, in the fields of medicine, history and psychology, fields where Leiden has major programmes with large numbers of students. For these programmes, there is a particularly high degree of added value to be gained from special tracks for highly talented.

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