Enrolment restrictions have come in for a good deal of criticism. They are thought to undermine access to higher education and put young people from non-western migration or low-skilled backgrounds at a disadvantage. With this in mind, Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven wants to monitor the situation more closely and have the right to veto enrolment restrictions.
The minister’s plans have not yet had an impact on the number of enrolment restrictions, but another intervention has. The Netherlands’ four universities of technology will start receiving more funding in the near future. Earlier this year, Wageningen University and Eindhoven University of Technology already announced that this would enable them to employ more teaching staff and either relax their enrolment restrictions or do away with them altogether.
Eindhoven is lifting restrictions on three out of six programmes: Technical Business Administration, Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Technology. Not only that, but its three remaining restricted programmes – Architecture, Technical Computer Science and Industrial Design – will be admitting higher numbers of students.
Wageningen had been planning to abolish enrolment restrictions on its Biotechnology programme in any case, when the maximum number of first-year students was not reached. The boost to its finances ensured that this decision could be taken more quickly. However, numbers are still being restricted for the Bachelor’s in Nutrition and Health. The University of Twente only restricts enrolment for Technical Medicine, and is planning no changes in the coming academic year.
TU Delft says it sees no immediate reason to abolish the enrolment restrictions that apply to six of its programmes. With the extra funds, the university plans to invest in teaching staff and facilities, but insists that the cash injection will not solve the capacity problems just like that. “Student numbers have doubled in recent years, while funding has lagged behind. Our first priority is to ensure that this backlog is normalised,” a spokesman clarifies.
If the other universities of technology can do away with or reduce their enrolment restrictions, why not Delft? “We are the largest university of technology with over 25,000 students. I cannot comment on the situation others are facing,” the spokesperson says. “But we can only maintain the quality of education if we grow moderately. Besides, we introduced enrolment restrictions not only due to lack of funding, but also because the demand for graduates from programmes such as clinical technology and nanobiology is simply not as great.”
A while back, it briefly seemed that enrolment restrictions at the ten university Bachelor’s programmes in Psychology would be a thing of the past but instead they will be a feature of three more programmes in the next academic year: Erasmus University Rotterdam, Tilburg University and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
A spokesperson for VU Amsterdam explains that the restrictions have been introduced because the programme can no longer cope with the increased flow of students. To safeguard quality, the university sees no other option than to restrict enrolment. “The increase is most likely the result of enrolment restrictions at other institutions.” Students opt for certainty and prefer to enrol in a programme where they can be admitted without falling foul of restrictions.
This now puts Twente in the unique position of being the only university to offer a psychology programme without enrolment restrictions. Even so, they are not concerned about the prospect of a massive influx of extra students. “At Twente, we offer psychology with a focus on technology. Our unique profile means we do not attract students who are interested in generic psychology,” a spokesperson maintains.
Among universities of applied sciences, the number of programmes which limit the number of student enrolments has also fallen only slightly: from 39 to 37. Of the ten government-funded physical therapy programmes, six still apply enrolment restrictions. In the case of full-time medical assistance programmes, restrictions will still apply in the next academic year, despite expectations to the contrary.
The universities have until 1 December to announce their enrolment restrictions, but in practice this rarely happens at the last minute.