Dr. Úna Henry joined Avans as head of the Master Institute of Visual Cultures in 2018. She has a wide range of experience in higher education in the field of postgraduate education and professional doctorates, obtaining her PhD from the University of Oxford in 2017. "Over the past five years”, Úna explains, “Under the rubric ‘Be the Future of Something Else’, I’ve executed an extensive curriculum innovation for art and design education. This was galvanized with an inspiring value shift toward a multidisciplinary future vision, one that places civic engagement, environmental and cultural thought at its core, which expands through technology, economics and science. I was therefore keen to have the unique opportunity to establish a new Master institute that will give more students access to postgraduate education allowing us to build sustainable, healthy, prosperous, and socially just futures together.”
Programme manager Ronald Cloosterman began laying the groundwork for the Master Institute in 2021. After putting together the business plan, he now oversees the development process for the new masters and manages the education portfolio. “From the start”, he says, “it was clear how excited everyone was about the plans for a Master Institute. We met extensively with students, directors, various advisers, the Centres of Expertise, other universities of applied sciences and industry. It’s a great feeling, to know that everyone’s behind our plans – we’re building something people support.” Ronald says that with the new Master institute, Avans is creating something that is truly distinctive. “We’re working towards an ambition that is important not only for Avans, but also for the world around us.”
Avans sees it as its mission to educate professionals who will contribute to a better world together, driven by their commitment and curiosity. “They are the generation who will contribute in inventive and unconventional ways to changing the ever complex and interconnected world we live in. That’s why our ambition is to position the Master Institute to the needs and careers of the 21st century student who will pursue fundamental questions to tackle some of the most pressing global challenges and able to translate ideas into action around issues of the environmental crisis, health and wellbeing, poverty and technology”, says Úna. That’s why cooperation with the Avans Centres of Expertise and the application of research results in education and professional practice will play an important role in our future masters.
Agents of change
The aim is to educate changemakers who will create a better future by focusing not only on producing more knowledge, but also on achieving impact. The interplay between research, education and professional practice will therefore be central to all new masters. Future master students will participate in the knowledge programmes and practice-based research of the Centres of Expertise, while the professional field will gain direct access to results and substantiated knowledge. This will contribute to the further development of Avans as a knowledge institution in the Netherlands and abroad.
Avans is currently the only university of applied sciences in the Netherlands setting up a centrally positioned Master Institute to house its new masters. This offers a great number of opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration between and across masters. “The Master Institute”, Ronald explains, “is going to work hard for high-quality cross-sectoral master education, based on one shared vision and ambition. This will help us ensure coherency between masters, as we communicate, facilitate and supervise from a single approach. There’s nothing better than being able to build something from the ground up. I’m proud of the people we have on board – with their motivation and expertise, I’m confident that we’ll get the job done.”
Based on their shared vision, the team will work to deliver the master profiles and assure their funding, in the coming period. Once this phase is completed, the masters will go into an implementation phase and be submitted for accreditation. “It will be a generative challenge to integrate cultural and social value that is always present at all levels of arts education, with flexible cross sectoral learning trajectories, research and knowledge production”, Úna says. “But I believe that we’re working on a success story together. This is how we actually make impact and create a place where master students can meet and make a positive contribution to the world.”