At the opening of the academic year, Van Engelshoven (D66) surprised friend and foe alike with her announcement to ease binding study advice requirements. In this scenario, students would be required to obtain only 40 of 60 credits to be eligible for advancing to the second year. Most universities and universities of applied sciences apply a more stringent standard, for example 50 credits. Since 2012, EUR requires students to successfully complete the first year of their programme in one year, with Medicine being the only exception.
“I was stunned when I heard of these plans”, said Psychology professor Henk van der Molen. Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB) was the first to trial N=N (Nominal is Normal) when Van der Molen was Dean. “While N=N was really introduced first and foremost in the interests of the student, EUR also benefits. It not only means better academic success rates, but higher quality education as well. I hope that the political establishment at the national level and at university level will work to dissuade the Minister from her ill-conceived plans.”
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Plans to ease the BSA requirements drew an enthusiastic response from students’ organisations, and opposition parties SP and GroenLinks were delighted with the announcement. They don’t care much for the idea that an institution is allowed to turn away students if you don’t obtain enough credits.
But other political parties are more sceptical. According to Judith Tielen of the VVD coalition party (33 seats), the Minister is choosing mediocrity and Tielen immediately stated she would not support the plan. The CDA (19 seats) publicly expressed their doubts and are now opposed to the plan. “Universities and universities of applied sciences need to have the scope to determine their own standards”, declared CDA MP Harry van der Molen when asked.
De PVV (20 seats) is dead set against the plans. “Standards can’t be dropped any lower”, says the PVV’s Harm Beertema. The trio comprising the SGP party is also not convinced:
“It’s rather pointless”, says MP Roelof Bisschop. Some students need time to adjust and aren’t able to immediately perform at the highest level. “They should be given some leeway”, he says. But he feels the Minister’s requirement of only obtaining two-thirds of the 60 credits is too low. “Students will never make up this lost ground. They would have to obtain 80 credits in their second year and that’s not going to happen.”
This brings the number of MPs opposing the plan to 75 out of 150, so for the moment, there is no parliamentary majority supporting the Minister’s plan. Van Engelshoven has to further develop her proposal, but she wants to send the plan to the House of Representatives before the budget debate.