“Not all students have equal opportunities in the admissions lottery for higher education, nor in their growth during their degree courses,” the Minister stated in her letter. “This is unacceptable. Achieving one’s educational objectives should be all about allowing the greatest possible number of suitable students to obtain a university degree.”
Children of poorly educated parents or from a non-Western migrant background are less likely to be admitted to degrees subject to a numerus clausus. Therefore, the Minister wishes to require universities to provide a good explanation as to why they wish to limit admission to certain degree programmes. If the universities fail to provide a satisfactory explanation, the degree programmes in question will have to be opened up to more students.
Van Engelshoven is working on an amendment that will be submitted to the Lower House in the second half of 2019. “All I can say at present is that [higher education] institutions will have to demonstrate that they have made a sufficient effort to prevent the student intake from having to be limited,” she stated in her letter.
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Not a word about statutory maximum requirements for first-year students
At the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year, the Minister announced that she wished to relax the requirements for first-year students, who are currently required to obtain a fairly high number of credits in their first year in order to be allowed to continue their studies. Van Engelshoven still wants these requirements to be relaxed. She feels the current strict requirements are reducing the likelihood of students getting a degree. Her plan to relax the requirements came in for a great deal of criticism from the Dutch universities.
In her letter to the Lower House, Van Engelshoven did not mention her plan to force universities to allow students who have obtained forty credits in their first year to continue their studies. However, she did say that the first-year requirements had become more stringent due to ‘the dynamics engendered by our single-minded focus on results’.
Mental health issues
The Minister also wishes to have a new study conducted on what can be done to reduce the number of students suffering from burnouts. Furthermore, the Minister wants universities to do more to facilitate students with an impairment, pregnant students, caregivers and transgender students who are in the process of transitioning.
The Minister stated that creating a ‘more inclusive education system’ involves creating opportunities for all students, and allowing less highly educated students to transfer to universities or universities of applied sciences. “I have entered into agreements with education institutions and students about the things we will do together to bring about more inclusive higher education,” said Van Engelshoven.