Given the corona crisis, the Union feels that all first-year students should be given more time to meet the requirements for admission to Year 2. It claims that this was the agreement it arrived at last week with the universities and universities of applied sciences.

Which was a compromise in the first place, says LSVb president Alex Tess Rutten. “In actual fact, we feel that this year’s first-year students should not be subjected to a binding study advice at all, to spare the students some agitation and uncertainty.”

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Different tack

While universities of applied sciences have indeed told all their students that they would not issue any enrolment decisions this year, some regular universities are taking a different tack. For instance, Wageningen University & Research has reduced the number of credits first-year students have to obtain in order to be admitted to Year 2, but has not gone so far as to scrap the requirement altogether for this year’s first-year students. Several other universities have announced that they will check whether the coronavirus outbreak really was to blame for the fact that students fell behind in their studies.

In other words, these universities are not actually doing anything new. Force majeure has always been a mitigating factor allowing students to be admitted to Year 2 even without having obtained the required number of credits, so in a way, the coronavirus outbreak is not changing a thing, as HOP (the Higher Education News Agency) found in an analysis published last week.

Frank Futselaar, an MP representing the Socialist Party, found the lack of leniency for current first-year students hard to believe and has requested clarification from the Minister for Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven. “People out there are confused about the whole thing, which I don’t think is a desirable situation,” he wrote. His request was supported by both ruling parties and opposition parties.

Certain media posted incorrect messages about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the binding study advice – messages that were then contradicted on Twitter by VSNU, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands. “Contrary that what certain media have written, it has not been universally decided that students will be given more time to obtain the required number of credits,” the Association emphasised.

Bad

Rutten says that the National Student Union is fairly unhappy with the situation. “I think it’s very bad that some universities have chosen not to do things the way we had all agreed. In this situation, students need some reliable guidance and certainty.”

The Intercity Students’ Organisation (ISO) seconded the Union’s statement. “We think it’s a pity that different universities are implementing different arrangements with regard to the binding study advice,” said ISO chairman Kees Gillesse. “A uniform arrangement gives students the highest level of certainty. And we assumed it would be uniform. We thought that’s what those agreements meant, although it’s true they can be interpreted in different ways.”

For the time being, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences appears to be the only tertiary education institution that has done away with all requirements for first-year students this year. The school had already decided to do so before the universities and the Minister for Education concluded their agreement.

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