Educational Vision of the Faculty of Law

The Educational Vision 2015 is derived from the faculty’s Educational Vision of 2012, the revised Educational Vision of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam of 2014 and the detailed specification of that document (KnowVU) of 2015, the faculty’s Mission Statement of 2014 and finally the vision of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) of 2015.

The faculty’s Education Committee, the employee participation body and the faculty’s Audit Committee all provided valuable comments and suggestions for this revised version, as did a number of our colleagues acting in a personal capacity. The Educational Vision was updated in 2016 based on the faculty’s own multi-year plans.

4 July 2016

On behalf of the Faculty Board,
Prof. Hemme Battjes, portfolio holder for education

Education that challenges

The education we provide is linked to our research programmes and to society.
The Faculty of Law provides rigorous training in law and criminology. This training is grounded in scientific research and focuses on forging connections with society. The faculty’s aim is to educate students to be dedicated and conscientious legal practitioners and academics who are aware of their potential and responsibilities, and who are capable of personal and professional growth.

The education we provide is based on the awareness that our society needs academically trained lawyers and criminologists who feel a deep sense of engagement with society. This education is encapsulated in degree programmes that have both a research orientation and a practical focus, particularly in the Academic Core of our Bachelor’s programmes. This part of the curriculum encompasses research methods and academic skills, in addition to training in the philosophy of science, ethics and scientific integrity. All of this is done in accordance with the educational vision of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

The Bachelor’s programmes in Law focus on training the student in the legal profession. The programmes approach the law as an object of study. In this approach, the student becomes thoroughly acquainted with the law as it is currently applied in practice, while also delving into the historical, theoretical and ethical foundations of law. A key tenet of the programmes is to impart a critical attitude regarding the structure and operation of the law, while also fostering an acute awareness of the law in action.

The Bachelor’s programme in Criminology trains students to approach the concept from a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspective, while also taking a legal, sociological, psychological and pedagogical approach, all with a strong emphasis on the subjects in the Academic Core.

All of the faculty’s Master’s programmes (including all specializations) are closely linked to the faculty’s research activities, which fall under the university’s overarching profiles of Governance for Society and the Connected World.

The education we provide is clearly positioned in the international scientific community while also forging links at the national and local level. It includes programmes taught in Dutch that focus on the legal profession at the national level, and English-taught Master’s programmes with a decidedly international orientation. It should be noted that the Dutch-taught programmes also feature a distinctly international component and a global focus, insofar as the nature of the programme permits. Local links are reflected in a focus on Amsterdam-based businesses and organizations (including Zuidas companies and law firms), and in internships and in law clinics that provide service to the community. The education we provide is closely intertwined with society. Many of our lecturers work (or have worked) in business, the legal profession, as a judge or for a research institute. All of these different backgrounds together provide the contours for our degree programmes and inform their content.

Access to specific legal professions (e.g. lawyer, judge, notary or tax consultant) is restricted to those who have completed training that meets the requirements for admission to the legal profession or judiciary. These requirements are laid down in an agreement concluded between the various Dutch law faculties, the Council for the Judiciary and the Dutch Bar Association. The degree programmes that focus on a career in these professions have been designed to ensure that graduates exceed these requirements.

Academic citizenship

Our students are academic citizens who are involved in their degree programmes and who grow and develop through self-study and contact with lecturers and fellow students. Students also have the opportunity to grow and develop through individual learning experiences.

Involvement
Both students and lecturers are responsible for ensuring good results within the timeframe prescribed for the relevant degree programme. Students and lecturers take their roles seriously, treat each other with respect and hold one another to account. All faculty degree programmes are meticulously organized and thorough. Lecturers are enthusiastic, dedicated and approachable. They encourage and inspire their students, and they focus on the further development of their teaching skills. Students are involved in their programme and the faculty, they attend classes and they participate actively in discussions and events organized by the faculty and university. They are naturally inquisitive and they display involvement in the community.

Contact
Personal contact between lecturer and student is one of the basic principles of the faculty’s degree programmes, and this principle determines the teaching methods employed. Class sizes are therefore small. This is particularly applicable to the criminology programme, because it provides the best environment for acquiring research skills. In the law programmes, seminars serve to train students to argue a position in the context of legal discourse, while developing the awareness that legal actors are always part of a specific societal context. The lecturer provides feedback on an individual basis, and acts as a role model with regard to academic skills and integrity. These small groups are complemented by teaching methods such as lectures and the use of IT resources tailored to the student’s personal learning style. Students develop their research skills in a number of ways, including by submitting written assignments and by giving presentations with individual feedback. Individual contact with lecturers is particularly important for new students (especially in the large Bachelor’s programmes), and for international students. Lecturer-tutors therefore provide guidance to small groups of Bachelor’s students. Furthermore, the mentorship programme brings first-year Bachelor’s students into contact with their older peers, who ensure an introduction to the faculty and the university as a whole.

Lecturers and students (both at the Bachelor’s and Master’s level) also gather outside of the formal educational setting, attending lectures, debates etc. These events are organized by the lecturers and students themselves, often as part of a study association or other student organization.

Personal learning experiences
The faculty strives to ensure that all students are able to develop their talents to the best of their ability based on their own experiences and convictions. Students are trained to conduct themselves responsibly and with due respect for others. For this reason, the faculty ensures scope for personal development by organizing a range of activities as part of the degree programmes. These include internships, international exchanges and participation in law clinics. Extracurricular activities are yet another avenue for personal development. These include student assistantships, research placements, committee memberships, mentorships, moot courts, business placements and the honours programme. Students are encouraged to engage in these activities on their own initiative. The faculty facilitates them to the greatest degree possible. One method is through the Career Office, which is a place where students can connect with potential employers or find an internship. The honours programme is available for ambitious students who want to get more out of their programme than provided for in the regular curriculum.

The faculty community ensures scope for diversity, talent and internationalization.
The faculty is an open community in the sense that lecturers, researchers, students, support staff and alumni all have the scope to express their individuality. Lecturers who are also engaged in research are expected to incorporate their research experience in their teaching practice. The faculty fosters close contacts with alumni with an eye to the job market, professional practice and societal engagement.

The faculty is by no means interested in attracting only the very best and brightest students, but we do expect everyone to put their best foot forward and get the most out of themselves. A clear example of how this expectation works in practice is the recommendation on continuation of studies at the end of the initial year of the Bachelor’s programme. At the same time, the faculty facilitates academic development by offering minors and in-depth teaching methods, and by encouraging students to spend a period of time studying abroad. Students can also develop their skills, expand their knowledge and gain experience by taking on an internal placement, joining the mentorship programme, becoming a member of a Programme Committee, etc., all of which enables them to get the most out of their time with us at VU Amsterdam.

The faculty also offers a number of Master’s programmes taught fully in English. These programmes are popular among both international and Dutch students. The faculty facilitates internships, giving students an opportunity to get acquainted with professional practice, tailor their expectations to the reality of life outside the academic setting and measure their potential in the real world.

The faculty community is highly diverse, which promotes an open attitude, mutual respect and a true sense of societal engagement. The academic setting at our faculty encourages a thoughtful examination of questions related to globalization and diversity in society.

We actively involve our alumni in monitoring the content and quality of our degree programmes. They are also a prime source for internships and they help to prepare our students for the job market. Many alumni also avail themselves of the postgraduate programmes we offer.

The Faculty of Law welcomes motivated and enthusiastic students who are looking for a well-organized, inspiring and challenging study environment.

Educational Vision in 10 points

  1. Academic education in law and criminology provided by the faculty is linked to current societal themes, encapsulated in the motto: Law in Action!
  2. Our lecturers and students are genuinely interested in each other and feel a true sense of engagement with society.
  3. As we engage in scholarship, we constantly examine the potential applications and effects of scientific knowledge. We also examine the origins of this knowledge, people’s opinions about science and alternative approaches to scientific endeavour.
  4. Our lecturers draw on their research as inspiration for their teaching practice, providing an enriching experience to their students.
  5. The faculty has a strong international focus while maintaining solid links at the local level, and these two aspects serve to mutually reinforce one another in a substantive sense. The global and local context are reflected in the education we provide.
  6. Our programmes meet all the requirements set by the professional field.
  7. Education is a group effort. Our students, lecturers, support staff, administrators and alumni all have their own roles to play, but they are jointly responsible for creating an inspiring learning environment.
  8. Personal contact between lecturer and student is a key principle in every aspect of the educational process.
  9. All students are entitled to customize their degree programmes, have the opportunity to prepare for their future careers, and are challenged to get the most out of themselves.
  10. We are immensely proud of our diverse faculty community. Diversity enhances the quality of our degree programmes and strengthens our link to society.