Bachelor's students will have to complete their degree more quickly, according to an agreement Wageningen has made with the Ministry of Education. Anyone with insufficient credits will first be offered extra assistance and if that does not improve their results, the University may give them a binding recommendation to leave. Expulsion as the ultimate sanction. A good idea?
Study adviser for Soil, Water and Atmosphere
'For a long time I was not keen on the idea of a binding recommendation to leave but students who just muddle along cost lecturers and supervisors too much time. If there is a binding recommendation, students who really do not want to be sent packing will start working harder. Only you shouldn't set the bar too high. My feeling is that the limit should be 24 or 30 credits. The drop-out rate will also fall if there is a study skills course in the first year, provided it is linked to a subject. The course should also focus on what is required for the degree. Our students have to learn how to deal with a lot of difficult maths whereas others have to tackle vast amounts of text.
First year, Forest and Nature Management Bachelor
'Some students seem to use their first year as a gap year and only really get down to work in the second year. That should still be possible. I think it would be better to have a binding recommendation after the second year.'
Seventh year, Urban Environmental Management Master
'The binding recommendation can help motivate people to study for their degree and stop them getting so behind. Now it is very easy to resit exams with no penalties. But I think it is a bit harsh to have to get all your credits in the first year. And some people need to learn how to study. I also think people would get through the Bachelor's more quickly if the first year was more interesting. At the moment it is just an extension of secondary school as they try to get you to toe the line. The purpose of your degree only becomes clearer much later on so they should bring that forward. The reason why it has taken me seven years to graduate is partly because I was on the KSV St. Francis committee for a year, and I also changed direction within my degree.'
First year, International Development Studies Bachelor, from Germany
'I have got all my credits so far. But a binding recommendation to leave might have put me off coming here to study. After all, you have to get used to another country, another language, living away from home. There is no binding recommendation like this in Germany. But they do have the rule that you can only sit an exam three times. If you have still not passed that subject, you have to leave the university even if you are already in the third year. Perhaps something like that here would encourage students to make more of an effort.'
Third year, Biology Bachelor
'A binding recommendation would have been the end of me, although I might then have worked harder after the first period. I found my degree interesting and fun, but student life was even more appealing. Now I have found a balance; I passed everything in the second year. A binding recommendation puts you under more pressure to get your credits in the first year. But it can be a while before you realize how badly you are doing and then it might be too late. I don't think you should have to get all sixty credits. People should still be allowed a few mistakes.'
First year, International Development Studies Bachelor
'I think there are lots of drawbacks to a binding recommendation. The grades someone gets are not a good measure of how motivated they are. I see people on my degree course who love the subject but get poor grades while others who are less motivated pass all their subjects. I don't know which is better. You also get a lot of courses in your first year which are not directly related to your degree subject, such as maths and statistics. And some students spend a lot of time in their first year on extra-curricular activities, or get poor grades due to exceptional circumstances. So the results in the first year are not that good an indicator of whether someone is likely to finish their Bachelor's within four years.'
Study adviser for Animal Sciences
'I think it's a good idea. So far, most of the students sent an 'emphatic study recommendation' by the student administration office have not paid it much attention. But students who get behind in the first year generally only get even further behind in subsequent years. It would be good to provide a compulsory study skills course for students who are a long way behind. If that doesn't improve things, you would be better off doing something else, certainly in view of the new government measures. Here within VHL's Animal Husbandry degree programme, we are now trying to arrange things so that it is easier for first-year Bachelor's students to switch subjects. Incidentally, I think you can only introduce a binding recommendation if schoolchildren attending information days have been told about this, so not before 2013.'
Sixth year, Nutrition and Health Master
'I think the slow student fine is already an incentive to finish your Bachelor's on time, so a binding study recommendation would be an additional threat. I know people who got six credits in their first year, fifteen in their second and finally stopped in the third year. That is a waste of their time and the University's time. I only got thirty credits in my first year because everything was new, I was discovering student life, I was living in a big, sociable house and the subjects weren't interesting. I only started studying seriously in the second year.'