Student athletes and student counsellors interact within a programmatic framework: The TWIN keynote for Fontys University of Applied Sciences investigated communicative aspects across these layers in the context of dual career.

Fontys is a university of applied sciences in the Netherlands, situated in one of the most innovative regions of Europe. At their campuses, Fontys welcomes students from over 100 countries. The university provides an extensive range of bachelor, master and exchange programmes in English.

As a member of the Dutch “FLOT Network” (associated with the NOC*NSF and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Fontys addresses the special dual career support requirements of athletes. To this end, the university runs its own Elite Athlete Scheme. Its aim is to create a climate that will allow elite athletes and talents to excel. This scheme is based on the Fontys Elite Sport Policy which aims to facilitate elite athletes and talents in the organisation of their study programme. Currently, the university has 201 students with an elite athlete status.

“An elite student athlete is an exceptional talent who is also challenged and encouraged particularly in higher education to progress to a high level. The higher education sector not only ensures the retention and development of talent and the competences needed in the rest of students’ careers, but equally plays a crucial role in encouraging and developing student careers in elite sports.”
FLOT (Flexible Education and Top Sport) Action Plan

Key support: student counselling

Training in the morning, then going to university, training again in the afternoon and studying in the evening. This is the daily routine of many student athletes. Consequently, optimising the self-management of their dual career management is key for progress: as a student, as well as an athlete.

“I admire how students manage to combine sports with their studies. The percentage of students obtaining their propaedeutic diploma within one year (37 percent) is as high as that of non-athletes.”
Dirma Eisenga
Fontys elite sports coordinator

Student counsellors play a supporting key role at Fontys; not only for student athletes but also for other students with dual careers, such as entrepreneurs or caretakers. Student counselling here refers to a professional dialogue between a qualified service provider and a student. Its main mission is to promote the adaptability and decision-making ability of the student. Particularly, such counselling aims to assist the student to carefully choose, periodically plan and gradually realize academic measures next to their other career to foster personal development processes.

Luhmann meets dual career

On 30 November, Fontys hosted an online event addressing the functional relationship between student athletes, student counsellors and the university. The event was joined by the university’s student athletes, Fontys employees, and programme coordinators across the Netherlands.

In his keynote, TWIN Founder & CEO Wolfgang Stockinger interlinked system theory elements of Niklas Luhmann with dual career programming for athletes. According to Luhmann, every social system has their own distinctive communication medium, their system language so to say. This is the medium in which communication in this specific system arises as meaning or sense. What is the communication medium of an Elite Athlete Scheme within the social system of a university? This is the question that institutions with special support policies must answer.

“If student athlete programmes and their services want to further increase buy-in and effectivity, they are asked to line up with the prime desire of their target group; which is: ‘better athleteship’. This also implies that student counselling becomes more part of the sporting journey. Exemplarily, this can be done by communicating an educational service as a fundamental resource for student athletes to professionalize their athletic career, in which studying is a part of.”
Wolfgang Stockinger
TWIN Founder & CEO



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