Education to see the bigger picture

Food and nutrition security at Wageningen UR

Food and nutrition security is a multi-faceted topic, many aspects of which can be studied in depth at Wageningen University. These include plant & animal production, agronomy, breeding, soil & water quality, food technology, nutrition, marketing & consumer behaviour, international development studies, and international land & water use. However, as you will read elsewhere in this book, nutrition security is the result of all kinds of actions taking place in complex food systems. This means that studying each aspect separately, while valuable in its own right, is simply insufficient.

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The search for innovative food systems that increase food/nutrition security requires graduates who can grasp the complexity of the finer details while also being able to see the bigger picture. How do we achieve that? Tiny van Boekel, managing director of the Education Institute of Wageningen UR: "The so called Wageningen Approach offers a wide-ranging solution. It starts with a basic scientific training inrelevant courses, after which students are required to work together in projects where they look  beyond their own specialisation (‘T-shaped skills’). The Wageningen Approach is also characterised by a combination of natural and social sciences, both in research as well as in teaching. This is based upon our conviction that innovations have a technological and a social aspect, and both need to be taken into consideration.

The Wageningen Approach offers a wide-range solution

A striking example is the course called Academic Consultancy Training where students from different disciplines work together on a societally relevant project. Many programmes also offer internships where students experience the complexity within real-life situations. In this way, we deliver graduates who are knowledgeable in their chosen specialisation, while also capable of communicating with other specialists and seeing the broader picture.

Wageningen University does not offer a programme called Food/Nutrition Security. Van Boekel: "As we have seen, food/nutrition security is a very complicated phenomenon and it is not possible to address the many different aspects in a single programme. We therefore educate students who become experts in their field and at the same time are able to combine this expertise with that of other experts and see the importance of involving both the social and the natural sciences in bringing about innovations."

Wageningen offers programmes for BSc, MSc and PhD degrees. Students can enter the programmes at all levels. MSc and PhD courses are given in English and contain global topics and intercultural aspects. As a result, some 40% of the MSc students and 60% of the PhD students come from abroad.