Since the foundation of PPE in 2016, the exchange semester in the third year has been a key component of the program. "We want to train our students as versatile, highly educated, social scientists." says Roland. “I think international experience is just part of that. It is not just an academic learning experience, but also a personal, social and organizational one.” There are two different types of destinations: PPE-specific partners and VU-wide partners. The difference is that the PPE students only compete with each other for a PPE-specific partner. As a result, they have a greater chance of being admitted to their exchange of choice. “Originally, we started with the best possible geographical selection.” explains Roland. PPE now has partnerships on all continents, except for South America. He proudly cites a few examples: “Fudan in China, Waseda in Tokyo, Australia National University, Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and a couple of American Universities, such as George Mason and San Diego.” This selection might ignite your wanderlust, but Roland emphasizes that it's not just about the destinations. “We are not a travel agency! Above all, we want to offer good quality education.
A PPE Network in Europe
Now most destinations have been covered geographically, PPE mainly wants to forge links with other PPE programs in Europe. Since 2020, PPE has an agreement with the PPE programmes in Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium, LUISS Guido Carlo in Italy and Witten/Herdecke University in Germany. This year, the Central European University in Vienna was added to the list. “It would be nice if the ties within these universities could grow out to be more than merely student exchange in the future. For example an exchange of lecturers for a semester. I would love it if there were a large PPE network in Europe.I really believe that student exchange could be a great first step in that direction.” Such a PPE network already exists in America, but there is no European equivalent yet, Roland explains.
Deepening the curriculum
In addition to PPE-specific programs, Roland also tries to ensure that each discipline is well represented in the foreign exchanges. The universities of East Anglia, Milan and Mumbai are specifically selected for students who want to pursue an economics master, Texas A&M has a very strong philosophy curriculum, and the University of South Carolina on the other hand is especially suitable for students who want to specialize in international relations. The exchange is therefore intended for deepening one’s knowledge in one or two of the disciplines, not broadening as is sometimes the case with monodisciplinary studies. “As a coordinator, I would say, don't choose the nicest or most beautiful destination in the first place, but see where your interests lie and what kind of graduate education you want to pursue.” Although the exchange contributes to deepening knowledge and increasing career opportunities, most students do it for the unforgettable memories. “When I talk to students at the graduation ceremony, they usually look back very positively on their exchange. Having obtained an outside perspective, they also suddenly realize how good our own PPE program really is. It's nice to hear that students feel very well prepared for their exchange and perceive our courses of being of a very high level!”