In future, first year students will only need to obtain 40 of the 60 study points to be allowed to progress to the second year, announced Minister Van Engelshoven today. This should ease the pressure on students.
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The Dutch National Students Association (ISO) considers this to be a huge step forward. According to ISO, many first year students still need to adjust to higher education and to student life. The binding study advice places “tremendous pressure on top of this”.
But university association, VSNU, is very much against the announcement. “I received a BSA from my first study programme, and that was the best ‘no’ I ever received”, stated spokesperson Bart Pierik. “I then started another study programme that suited me much better. This proposal will result in more students becoming stranded in their studies because they’re actually following the wrong study programme.”
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And the psychological pressure on students? “The first year is always tense anyway: the BSA doesn’t really add anything to that”, said Pierik. “The pressure on students is more to do with having part-time jobs, finding a room and building a social network. And the BSA works: graduation rates have increased. Universities have good reasons for this.”
The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences does not yet want to respond but, like the VSNU, is surprised by the plan. This has not been discussed in advance with the universities of applied sciences, stated a spokesperson.
The response across the political parties is divided. D66 Member of Parliament, Paul van Meenen, party colleague of the Minister, is delighted. “It’s great that Minister @ivanengelshoven is setting a boundary on the totally random requirements made on #students in a binding study advice.”
But coalition partner, VVD, can’t see the point of the plan, according to Member of Parliament, Judith Tielen. “The Minister has chosen for mediocrity and wants to limit students’ options. Why shouldn’t a student be able to select a study programme that employs a strict norm of 60 points? Some students excel in a study programme in which ambitions are high; others excel in an environment in which there is less pressure. The Minister is riding roughshod over this diversity.”
The psychological pressure that students experience “is indeed a problem and we need to do something about it”, stated Tielen, “but this idea won’t solve anything. Most BSA norms are only just slightly higher, for example 45 or 50 points. It makes no sense to bring this norm down by just a little.”
The governing party, CDA is also undecided. “I’m not yet convinced”, responded CDA Member of Parliament, Harry van der Molen on Twitter. “The majority of study programmes are just above 40 study points anyway. And some just award 15 points per quarter as a matter of course, which is automatically 45 points. So it’s not offering students much in the way of ‘breathing space’. Plus: they need to get these points at some point. So they’ll just feel the pressure later on, won’t they?”
Like the coalition, the opposition is also divided. SP and GroenLinks are plainly delighted. “I’m certainly not always in agreement with the Minister, but if she wants to make the binding study advice more flexible, she can count on the support of the SP”, stated Member of Parliament, Frank Futselaar on Twitter. His colleague Zihni Özdil from GroenLinks talked of a “fantastic step by the Minister” and would prefer to completely abolish the BSA.
But Harm Beertema from PVV is totally against this. “This is just lowering standards again. They’re almost at the very bottom anyway. In a few years, the psychological pressure will still be the same. But then it will be about 40 points. And the @MinOCW will be crying along with the students about that too.”