Academic writing skills

Primary challenge owner: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Secondary challenge owner(s): None



Learning academic writing skills is one of the core tasks of academic education. In the education of students, this skill is trained throughout the entire Bachelor (Ba) and Master (Ma) programme. However, during the writing of the Bachelor thesis it often turns out that students fall short on their academic writing skills, which results in either a steep learning curve, or the required level is not achieved in the end. The result is study delay and extra costs for both the student and the institution. The same process appears to occur again in the Master’s phase (because once again higher demands are made on writing skills than in the Ba phase).

One of the reasons for this is that writing instruction is fragmented across multiple subjects (which are sometimes included in a syllabus) and is taught and trained by different lecturers(sometimes also from university libraries). Moreover, the amount of supervision time per student is also decreasing due to the growing amount of student.

Technical support tools also appear to be little advanced or to focus only on a particular aspect of the writing skills. Moreover, these support tools are supported through different systems and are often not used in conjunction with each other. Another challenge is that determining the exact growth of proficiency in academic writing is also limited. The level of skill required, and conventions used also varies per study and study phase. Keeping track of growth in a portfolio or with so-called rubrics is often too general. Finally, students are being educated more and more bilingually, and their proficiency in Dutch and English often differs which results in different demands on support.

The Vrije Universiteit would like to see a contribution to tackle to these problems with the help of EdTech, and hopes that startups can contribute to this.


The question/ the challenge to startups

Contribute to a solution that coaches students on academic writing skills throughout their studies so that they can develop their skills to reach the desired level of academic writing.



  • The solution can be deployed without taking up extra teaching time, but it must enable the teachers to monitor and the students’ growth and redirect the student when necessary.

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