The adequately sized university?

A student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences explains on why his campus is the perfect size, as the world's best small universities 2016 are announced.

January 25 2016
The Alnarp Castle at SLU

See the Times Higher Education World’s Best Small Universities 2016 table here.

Robin Meijer, a student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, on why his campus is the perfect size

I was asked to write a short blog post on how I feel about studying at a pretty modestly sized university. This got me thinking. First of all, I hadn’t even thought about the fact that my university is considered to be small – I knew that it was niche, but I kind of thought that it was relatively big. In size at least. Second, I started thinking about what role size plays. Does a larger and more well-known university perform better than a smaller one? And according to who, and under what criteria?

I’m a student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Alnarp, one of several campuses in Sweden. I’ve been here for three years now, and I’ve enjoyed my stay immensely. But why? What makes this university great? Answering this question is hard. First, I have no experience of studying at other universities; and second, I’m biased. But I’ll try to answer it anyway.

Set within a forested park almost 150 years old, the university area features an old castle, several old buildings, stables converted into a modern library and high-tech facilities for growing crops indoors, with or without sunlight. For some people, this sounds interesting enough. But this is just the frosting on the cake.

What makes this school so special is the way that it makes you feel at home.

Maybe this has to do with its size. Or maybe not. But knowing that each and every day you’ll be meeting friendly and familiar faces, students and teachers alike, well…It’s easy to get comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that I have heard that the greatest danger of studying at SLU Alnarp is that you’ll want to stay for ever!

But it could also be tied to the fact that there are a lot of teachers in relation to students – something I put a high value on. This essentially means that students get more time to ask questions. And both parties have more time to truly get to know each other. When these bonds are strong, it can lead to higher performance, as the teacher is not just an anonymous person setting the grades; the teacher is a person who invests time and energy in his or her students, who then may feel more obliged to hand in work on time and to perform better than they otherwise would.

The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences is ranked at number 6 in the Times Higher Education World’s Best Small Universities 2016 table.

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