Education Minister wants universities to put less pressure on first year students

Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven of Education wants universities and colleges to reduce the psychological pressure on first year students. The Minister therefore wants to reduce the maximum number of credits that can be required from first year students in the so-called binding study advice (BSA) from 60 to 40, NOS reports.

"I find the pressure placed on students too high", Van Engelshoven said to the broadcaster. "We really have to prevent students from stumbling unnecessarily." The law will be adapted to change the maximum credits demanded of first-years to 40 in 2020, but the Minister hopes that universities and colleges will lower the standard as soon as possible. 

The BSA is the minimum number of credits a first year student has to complete in order to continue studying. Those who do not achieve this, can not continue studying in their chosen direction. Using a BSA is optional, and universities and colleges can decide how high to set it for themselves.

The Minister emphasized that the BSA was implemented in 1993 to determine whether a student is in the right place or needs extra study guidance. Now it is too often used as a selection tool to send slower students away and increase universities' return, she said to NOS. "I do not want the system to work that way and that's why I am intervening", she said. "We need to give every student a fair chance to get a diploma, whether they are fast or need a little more help."

A growing number of students in the Netherlands are struggling with psychological or physical issues, university doctors warned last month. They attribute this to too high pressure, often caused by stress from their studies, part time jobs, and maintaining social contacts. Van Engelshoven is concerned about this performance pressure, and thinks that students should be given more time to get used to their new situation. 

According to the Minister, a maximum of 40 credits is still high enough for universities and colleges to identify students unable to achieve their chosen diploma, and to advise them to take a different direction. "The binding study advice is to see if a student is in the right place, and then 40 is a perfect benchmark."