Recently, programmes with a limited number of first-year students (such as medicine) were once again given permission to use a lottery system for the admission of new students. And they are actually considering it, a poll by daily Trouw reveals.

What is the news exactly?

The selection procedure for the medicine programme will undergo drastic revision to increase diversity amongst students, Trouw writes. The lottery system is reportedly making a comeback. “Radboud University Nijmegen, for instance, may completely switch to an unweighted lottery system”, writes Trouw. “This would give each candidate the same chance, regardless of their grades obtained or their motivation.”

Is the current intake of students not diverse enough?

Selection creates a barrier for prospective students without highly-educated parents, research shows, as well as for students with a migrant background. The Inspectorate of Education criticises the randomness of criteria in selection procedures. The programmes are doing whatever they please, is what the criticism came down to.

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And a lottery system would solve that?

The principle of a lottery system is that everyone has an equal chance. You can also opt for a weighted lottery, for instance for students with high grades. This may reintroduce a certain degree of inequality.

Will an unweighted lottery system, where everyone who completed pre-university education has an equal chance, really be introduced in Nijmegen?

No, responds a spokesperson we talk to about this. Because the lottery system will in any case be combined with a ‘best effort requirement’, although it’s not yet clear what this will look like. “You want to level the playing field as much as possible.”

Can you also do some selection followed by a lottery?

Yes, that’s been made possible. Groningen wants to be quick about it and introduce such a mixed model next year already, a spokesperson tells us. This is to promote equal opportunity. Erasmus MC is also considering such a mixed system of selection and lottery. “But there will have to be many talks before we can be sure in which direction we’ll be heading”, a spokesperson explains.

What do the politicians think?

“It’s good that several medicine programmes want to get to work on this now”, Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf writes on X in response to the Trouw article. Most politicians supported the allowing of the lottery system. Following an intense debate, the outcome is that programmes are also allowed to mix lottery and selection – up to a point.

When was the lottery system prohibited anyway?

In 2017, the idea at the time being that talented students shouldn’t have to depend on chance. But it didn’t take long for the politicians to change their minds, when it turned out selection had all kinds of negative consequences for diversity.

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