Evaluation of Wageningen University Research by Independent Peer Reviews, 2015

Published on
October 30, 2015

Last summer most of the university's research underwent evaluation by external, international and independent review committees. This evaluation mainly focused on the graduate schools. Five of the six graduate schools at Wageningen University were visited in 2015; WIMEK had already received a site visit in 2014.

The review process spanned two levels. The graduate schools underwent evaluation regarding their system of quality control for research and their PhD programme. In January of this year, Wageningen University's PhD programme was already evaluated with regard to its general structures and procedures. The review committees also examined the performance of the different internal groups in each graduate school. The groups in the five graduate schools underwent independent peer reviews for three criteria, a process based on a nationally established protocol. These criteria were: Q (scientific quality), R (relevance to society) and V (viability). The findings on each criterion were described, and subsequently recorded on a scale of 1 - 4 (1 = world-leading/excellent, 2 = very good, 3 = good, 4 = unsatisfactory). Additionally, recommendations were drafted for further improvements.

The current evaluation shows unequivocally that the grand majority (over 90%) of our research ranks among the world's top scientific research (with a score of 1) or just under it (with a score of 2). Furthermore, over the past five years we have achieved an overall improvement.

In their evaluations, the review committees expressed high praise for our research. However, the committees had different interpretations when it came to criteria scores. Due to differences in the measuring standards the committees used for evaluation, the scores of the individual graduate schools are difficult to compare. For instance, the WIAS school had no groups with a score of 1 for all three criteria. By contrast, other graduate schools did - some had several. However, comparison of scores of groups within the same graduate school is possible.

The tremendous value that peer reviews offer is not so much attributable to these number scores as it is to the explanations of the scores and the accompanying recommendations. Naturally, generally excellent reviews are not followed up by ‘extensive’ recommendations. The peer committees concluded, for instance, that the university provides a well-organised, coherent and productive research environment with a solid PhD programme that offers doctoral candidates quality training as independent researchers. The graduate schools can thus guarantee their ability, as sufficiently autonomous entities, to continue offering adequate PhD programmes in upcoming years.

Nonetheless, the committees drafted a number of clear recommendations for the graduate schools:

  • Establish a well-defined vision for the future of the PhD programmes at Wageningen University.
  • Continue efforts to attract external and international doctoral candidates and staff.
  • Create opportunities for intervision, i.e. learning from one another's good practices.
  • Foster more effective cooperation between the internal groups.

Valuable recommendations were also made with regard to the groups. Many of these concerned:

  • Taking timely action to change course and introduce new methods and techniques;
  • Reinforcing ties with stakeholders;
  • Establishing a balance in educational and research programmes;
  • Intensifying cooperation between groups;
  • Devoting attention to critical mass and focus.

In addition, the committees pointed out areas requiring ongoing attention, such as maintaining a gender balance and recruiting international staff.

All of the reports are public available and offer clear insight into the quality of the graduate schools and their internal groups. The reports also point out options for improving scientific quality at Wageningen University.

Prof. Arthur Mol
Rector Magnificus, Wageningen University

Prof. Johan van Arendonk
Dean of Wageningen Graduate Schools