A national survey initiated by Resource shows that the slow student fine is affecting the choice of further study for 18 percent of Dutch Bachelor's students. Eight percent are choosing not to continue their studies at all.
The survey was carried out in February by the college magazines editorial boards at ten academic universities and five applied universities. It was in response to the increasing pressure on students. The government is expecting students to get their degrees more quickly. That certainly applies after 1 September 2012, when Master's students will no longer get a basic grant, and anyone getting behind by more than a year will pay an annual 'tardy student' fine of 3,000 euros.
So the question is to what extent students in the Dutch higher education system feel the pressure is on. These are the key findings from the survey.
Forty percent of Dutch students sometimes experience considerable study stress (to the extent that it restricts their private lives), 51 percent lose sleep as a result of study stress and 60 percent find the pressure of their studies leads to periods of worry.
More women (46 percent) suffer from study stress than men (34 percent) and more international students (53 percent) than Dutch students (38 percent). Stress also increases with age and is more prevalent among Master's students than among Bachelor's students.
Eighteen percent of Bachelor's students say they have changed their mind about their following degree (the Master's) due to the introduction of the tardy student fine. Six percent are still choosing to do a Master's, but are opting for an easier subject or a subject with a greater chance of getting a good job, for instance. Some are still debating what to do but eight percent of all Bachelor's students have decided not to do a Master's at all. Nationally that means that forty thousand Bachelor's students are curtailing their studies for fear of the tardy student fine.
The survey also shows that the more hours students spend on things other than their degree, the less stress they experience. This relationship is very clear for sport, student societies and part-time jobs, and fairly clear for going out.
There will be more details on this survey in Thursday's Resource magazine, with graphs and reactions from LSvB, Wageningen students and MPs.
Zijlstra: 'Some stress is not a bad thing'
Higher education State Secretary Halbe Zijlstra is partly responsible for the increased pressure on students. He has given his response to the survey findings. Zijlstra does not see it as a problem if the tardy student fine stops Bachelor's students from doing a Master's. 'The aim of the tardy student measures was to encourage students to think more carefully about their choice of degree. So it is not a problem if Bachelor's students say: "I'm not sure whether I want to do a Master's degree; I'll work for a bit first". The students can always decide later whether they want to do a Master's degree.'
Zijlstra also thinks it is a good thing that forty percent of students sometimes experience considerable study stress. 'A bit of stress is not a bad thing at all as that's what you will be getting when you start working. It is also personal: some people can cope with pressure better than others. Perhaps you are taxing yourself too much and have taken on more than you can manage, in which case it might be sensible to scale things down.'
The study stress survey was carried out by the college magazine editorial boards at ten academic universities and five applied universities: Ad Valvas (VU Amsterdam), Cursor (Eindhoven University of Technology), Delta (Delft University of Technology), DUB (Utrecht University ), Erasmus Magazine (Erasmus University Rotterdam), H/Link (The Hague University of Applied Sciences), Observant (Maastricht University), Profielen (Rotterdam University), Resource (Wageningen University and Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences), Sax (Saxion University of Applied Sciences), Trajectum (HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht), UK (University of Groningen), UT Nieuws (University of Twente) and Vox (Radboud University Nijmegen).
The survey was conducted between 1 and 17 February. Students were approached on a random basis in places where students tend to congregate (such as canteens and study areas). The questionnaire was completed by 5,497 students (1,859 from applied universities and 3,353 from academic universities). The analysis shows that the sample reflects the student population in terms of the male-female ratio and proportion of first years.