With things so uncertain, universities of applied sciences are choosing not to issue the binding study advice (BSA) – which determines whether students can re-enrol in a given programme – and deferring it to next year. Universities are taking a different tack, leaving the decision on whether to issue BSAs to the institutions and departments themselves.

This has angered many university students. Wednesday morning, eight student unions submitted an urgent letterprotesting the BSA to their university boards. The online petition already has 4,300 signatures.

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Urgent appeal

The Dutch socialist opposition party SP is also anti BSA. In a resolution presented by MP Frank Futselaar, he asked the minister to “make an urgent appeal” to universities to scrap the BSA this academic year after all.

Though Minister Van Engelshoven has said before that she’s no big fan of the BSA either, she sees no purpose in rehashing the matter with the universities.

As she pointed out to the House, since the BSA was already discussed at length in preparations for the new higher education service document, she does “not see how renewed consultations will in any way change things”.

She further noted that the universities will continue to keep an eye on developments. If departments signal delays, accommodations can be made. Also, individual students who run into trouble because of the pandemic can still get a deferment.

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‘No opinion’

The social-liberal party D66 and green party GroenLinks also weighed in, though they didn’t address the Education minister directly. In a joint resolution, the two parties called on universities not to apply the BSA “fully” this year, but to modify the standard – read: lower the bar.

“I have no opinion on that”, Van Engelshoven’s responded, to the House Speaker’s bafflement. “But it’s good that the House has clearly articulated its stance.”

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On behalf of the opposition, labour party PvdA made another bid for financial compensation for students who fall behind during the pandemic. Is the minister prepared to take pertinent measures? it wanted to know.

The minister replied with obvious exasperation that as she had explained to the House five or six times before that she wants to look into what’s needed to compensate students who are wrestling with this, but only if and when such delays actually occur. “At the end of the academic year we’ll have a picture of how many students will graduate late.”

The House of Representatives will vote on the resolutions next Tuesday.