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EUR gripped by a sense of leniency over the abolition of the binding study advice

Now that the Dutch House of Representatives wants to see a less strict binding study…

In mid-March, it emerged that universities and universities of applied sciences had differing views on the application of the binding study advice rule during the corona pandemic. The universities of applied sciences soon decided that compliance with the study advices should be postponed for all first-year students. The idea is that all students should be allowed to go on to the second year and catch up on the missing subjects later. A few of these institutions even suspended compliance completely.

A different tack

Some of the universities are trying a different tack. Wageningen, for instance, lowered the standard for the binding study advice, but did not abolish it altogether. Other universities checked whether the delay that students had suffered really was due to the corona crisis. The first analyses also showed that students were pretty much on track in terms of credits obtained during the first corona wave.

The updated ‘service document’ for higher education once again reflects this alternative approach. Higher professional education institutes are already granting all first-year students a postponement for compliance with the binding study advice rule, but the universities see no reason for this. “Given that first-year students were able to follow virtually the entire university curriculum and hardly any of them fell behind in their studies during the last academic year, universities do not expect to see any study delays among the current intake of first-years.”

In a tight spot

They will be keeping a close eye on the programme offer and students’ progress. If it turns out to be necessary, the “individual study programmes” will take leniency measures for first-year students. And if individual students run into difficulties, they can postpone compliance with the rules, but that is business as usual.

The National Students’ Union is disappointed. “The corona crisis has made the situation for first-year students even more complicated because they’ve only ever studied in this time of corona crisis, they know no different,” reckons chairman Lyle Muns. He’s also puzzled by the fact that the universities of applied sciences have granted a blanket deferment and yet the universities have not.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the wake of the corona crisis. The Lower House wants Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven to talk to the institutions about doing away with the rule. While they are quite keen, tertiary education has serious reservations.

'Adjustments but only on the basis of hard data'

Erasmus University’s board recently seemed to be warming to the idea of this approach to binding study advice, simply because their motto Nominal=Normal has been a showpiece of the educational vision in Rotterdam. That said, the Executive Board recently informed the University Council that it would only consider possible changes to the rule on advice based on hard research data.