Studiekeuze123 is facing heavy criticism again. There are allegations that the information provided to prospective students paints a far too rosy picture and that the marketing departments of educational institutions have excessive influence. The governing parties want a detailed investigation.

The information Studiekeuze123 provides to students is unreliable. This claim was made by the publisher of the Options Guide for Higher Education (Keuzegids Hoger Onderwijs) and the website Dedecaan.net in a recently published scathing report.

Jet Bussemaker, Minister of Education, Culture and Science, refers prospective students looking for impartial information to the Studiekeuze123.nl website. Information on this site includes success rates for programmes and job prospects in the labour market, as well as the results of the National Student Survey carried out annually by the foundation.

Whitewashed

The authors of the report cast serious doubts on the objectivity of the information. They presented examples of whitewashed figures, outdated labour market information, and sometimes even cases of omitted information. For example, information on first-year drop-out rates and the number of students successfully completing their study after four years in Radboud University’s bachelor’s programmes in law was omitted. “Inquiries revealed that these figures had been compiled and later removed upon the request of the RU’s Dean of the Faculty of Law”, states the report. “Perhaps it’s just a one-off occurrence, but at the same time it is highly suspect.”

Dubious presentation

However there are several examples of dubious presentation of data. In this context salaries for graduates were converted to full-time pay without stating that this was the case. According to Studiekeuze123, graduates in creative therapy, for example, earn €2,081 instead of €1,344 (their average salary). That is what they would earn working full-time, but a full-time position is seldom available.

Studiekeuze123 was also criticised for taking too long to process the labour market prognoses provided by the Maastricht-based research agency ROA. To make matters worse, according to the report, prognoses derived from related university of applied sciences bachelor’s programmes were used for the labour market prognoses for university bachelor’s programmes.

In short, the report states that multiple choices made in the presentation of data are not transparent and the information sometimes cannot be verified: research carried out once every two years among university graduates, for example, is not public.

Institutions in a dominant position

According to the report much of criticism can be traced back to the dominant position held by institutions in the Studiekeuze123’s foundation executive board. Even though the student organisations LSVb and ISO hold positions on this board along with the universities, universities of applied sciences, and private education providers, they were unable to prevent “marketing from gaining the upper hand on providing objective information”.

The authors of the report urge the government to take action in this matter. Provide transparent data so that everyone can select and choose for themselves, and place the provision of information at a “safe distance” from universities and universities of applied sciences.

Different interests

ISO’s response confirms this analysis. “We have observed that the interests of institutions differ from those of students and as a result critical information is not provided to students. Student organisations now have a minority say in Studiekeuze123’s board.”

That’s why ISO president Linde de Nie wants institutions and student organisations to withdraw from the board so that Studiekeuze123 can become “fully independent”. Now that a student loan system has been introduced she feels it is especially important for students to be provided with objective information.

'Minister needs to investigate'

“There is no way this should have happened”, responds VVD Member of Parliament Pieter Duisenberg. The information on Studiekeuze123 is essential for anyone who wants to make the right choice when selecting a study. That is why this information must be independent and reliable. As a father of two children who plan to study I can also add that this information needs to be accessible too. On the Studiekeuze123 website you now have to scroll down a long way to find key information about a study. Together with my PvdA colleague Mohandis we are going to ask Minister Bussemaker to initiate a detailed investigation into this matter.”

Under fire

Studiekeuze123 recently came under fire for providing flawed information regarding job prospects for university students in the labour market. In reality psychologists have poorer prospects of finding a job appropriate to their professional qualifications than stated on Studiekeuze123’s website. In her response to Parliamentary questions this past Friday, Bussemaker referred to the errors as regrettable. She announced that institutions and student unions will commence discussions with Studiekeuze123 to explore how labour market-related information can be further improved.