News - October 27, 2016

Growth of Master’s programmes slows

Roelof Kleis

The enrolment figures for first-year Master’s students has stabilized this year after years of growth. As of 1 October, only 18 more students than last year had started on a Master’s at Wageningen University & Research. The stagnation is caused by the fact that fewer BSc students are staying on to do a Master’s here, show statistics from the department of Education Research & Innovation (ER&I).

At the beginning of August a growth of 10 percent was expected in both the Bachelor’s and the Master’s programmes. The actual growth was 9 percent for the Bachelor’s programmes but only 0.8 percent for the Master’s degrees. According to Henk Vegter, head of Quality and strategic information at ER&I, this is related to two trends in different directions. The number of Dutch and especially of international Master’s students coming from other institutions is still increasing. But the drop in the number of Wageningen’s own Bachelor’s students staying on for a Master’s is even greater. Of this year’s BSc graduates (as of September), only 71 percent enrolled for a WUR Master’s. Last year that was 81 percent and two years ago, 85 percent.

Another factor is that a lot fewer Bachelor’s students graduated last year: 880 instead of 991. Vegter puts this down to the abolition of the basic grant. ‘Last year BSc students in the last stages of their degree did their very best to finish in time to start on a Master’s while they still had a right to a basic grant.’ The combined effects – fewer BSc graduates and fewer staying on for their Master’s degree – are enough to cancel out the growth in recruitment from elsewhere.

Number of first-years per MSc programme

The slowdown is reflected in developments per Master’s programme. More than half the 29 programmes show signs of shrinkage (see table). The differences are considerable too. Food technology is clearly in the lead with 235 students. This programme is growing continuously, and programme director Ralf Hartink thinks the trend will continue for a while longer. The growth is being taken into account, yet Hartink predicts problems. ‘The professors still guarantee a thesis position for all the students, but the capacity for supervision and the costs of those places are problematic.’