Van Engelshoven had previously proudly announced that she was going to relax these requirements. Students should be allowed to stay if they obtained 40 credits or more, she said when she opened the academic year at Tilburg University.

However, she was unable to get a majority of MPs in the Lower House to support that plan. Last week, she indicated that the requirements would not be relaxed quite that much. She now wishes to engage in a debate on the requirements for and supervision of first-year students with the Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences.

Stronger beliefs

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Minister for Education wishes to end Nominal = Normal

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“I can see what some of you are thinking. Didn’t she use to hold stronger beliefs?” said Van Engelshoven. “But sometimes you have to put the cat among the pigeons to get a debate going.”

Frank Futselaar, an MP for SP, was not satisfied with this explanation. “Surely that’s a little undignified for a minister, getting the entire education industry riled up and confusing students like that?” he said. “Surely after doing something like that, you can’t just say, oh, I was merely trying to get a debate going?”

What ensued was some bickering about the exact words the Minister had used. She insisted that she really wants to ‘impose restrictions’ on the binding study advice, but will also discuss the subject with others and conduct research.

Judith Tielen, an MP for VVD, one of the ruling parties, said the Minister’s plans continued to be vague. “I’d like to ask the Minister to explain once more, in very unambiguous terms, what she is and isn’t planning to do. I’d like to prevent a situation whereby we’ll have to have another debate next spring on what exactly she meant to say.”


Van Engelshoven did reveal one little titbit. One of the ideas she is toying with is imposing certain standards on universities that require their students to obtain more than 40 credits in their first year in order to be allowed to stay on. She may require departments that do this to demonstrate that they provide a high level of support to students.

“That is not at all what I have in mind,” Tielen immediately said in response. She has no issues with the binding study advice it its current form. The Minister went on to share more of her plans, but left both members of the opposition and of the coalition unsatisfied with regard to this particular issue.


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Minister hopes that universities will relax first-year requirements of their own accord

The Minister for Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven, stated that it is ‘unacceptable’…