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History of the ICO PhD Programme

ICO was founded in 1988 to offer PhD students from the University of Twente and the University of Groningen courses in educational research. ICOs founding fathers were prof. dr. J. Scheerens, prof. dr. W.J. van der Linden and prof. dr. W.J. Nijhof from the University of Twente, and prof. dr. B.P.M. Creemers, prof. dr. W.Th.J.G. Hoeben and prof. dr. W.K.B. Hofstee from the University of Groningen.

Given the research focus of these initiators, the educational programme originally addressed the foundations and methodology of evaluation research. Upon request of, and in cooperation with, the Board of Education of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), the focus of the educational programme gradually shifted to educational effectiveness, including issues of learning processes, educational design and instrumentation. In 1990, the educational programme was officially recognized by the Associating of Research Institutes as professional training for researcher.

In the early 1990s there was a considerable increase in the number of PhD students taking ICO courses. This increase was mainly due to the fact that other universities decided to participate in ICO. The University of Limburg (at present, University of Maastricht) joined ICO in 1991. The Catholic University of Nijmegen, the University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University, the Open University and the Catholic University of Brabant (at present, University of Tilburg) followed one year later.

The educational programme initially consisted of basic modules and several specific optional modules. Additionally, ICO organized its first international summerschool in 1992. This event took place at the campus of the University of Twente and was attended by more than thirty PhD students from various Eurpean countries. The second summerschool in 1993 consisted of three-day courses, a conference for PhD students and an international ICO symposium.

By the time the research school was recognized by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in 1994, the educational programme comprised a broad introductory course, consisting of two modules in which PhD students were to elaborate on the theoretical and methodological aspects of their own research proposal. PhD students could also attend one specialization module, which was organized by the divisions. In addition, ICO offered a national PhD student conference and an international summerschool.

In the following years, the educational programme underwent some major changes as a result of a shift in training needs. As more and more PhD students were appointed at well-defined research projects, the extensive introductory course had become largely superfluous. It was therefore shortened and redesigned into an introductory training that would familiarize PhD students with general educational research skills and the field of educational research. Also, the national PhD student conference disappeared from the educational programme, which was a direct result of the fact that universities increasingly encouraged PhD students to participate in international conferences. The final national PhD conference took place in 1999.

During the second half of the 1990s, more emphasis was put on specialist courses the so-called masterclasses. As of 1999, these courses were no longer organized by the divisions, but by (a combination of) thematic groups that reflected the central themes in educational research. There were also courses on specific methodological issues: qualitative analysis and multi-level analysis. These courses were later transformed into masterclasses.