News - September 10, 2015

No truck with the ‘six student’?

Carina Nieuwenweg

The University of Leiden set the cat among the pigeons last year when it announced that students with a bare pass (a six) would no longer be admitted to its Master’s programme in Political Science. Seven minimum, even for their own Bachelor’s students. The reason given is that this will raise the standard of the programme. But some see it as a disguised budget cut. Meanwhile the VU University Amsterdam and the Rotterdam School of Management have started selecting too. Should Wageningen join them in turning away students with a six average?

Bram van Driel, Second-year student of Nutrition and Health


I think the advantage of this plan is that there is more point in aiming for good grades. Now you only have to pass your courses to get a Bachelor’s degree and be accepted on a Master’s programme. If this is introduced in Wageningen, there should be at least one Wageningen Master’s you can get into with a pass degree. That way you get a system in which getting good grades gives you more choice. That appeals to me. I do wonder though if it’s a good idea to have Master’s programmes at different levels. In principle a Master’s stands for academic ability. How do you explain the differences to businesses? They want to know where they stand, too.

Wilko van Loon, Programme director Molecular Life Sciences


I can understand why you would require at least a seven for students coming from other kinds of first degree courses where they have taken a different set of courses to the standard Bachelor’s. Then you give the better students the biggest chance of doing well on the Master’s. But if you decide to really start selecting you should do so as early as possible in the Bachelor’s phase. It would be ridiculous for students to hear only after their Bachelor’s that they are less suited to the subject they chose. That is a waste of their time. If they have got their Bachelor’s they should get access to the Master’s. After all, you want to make clear that your own Bachelor’s is good enough.

Sonja Isken, Programme director Biotechnology


In my view it’s simple. If you say a group of students are not up to a Master’s while they have obtained a Bachelor’s degree intended to precede that Master’s, then the Bachelor’s degree is too easy. Obviously you don’t think your own Bachelor’s degree is good enough. In that case you should work on the Bachelor’s programme until you are sure that even a ‘six’ is good enough for the Master’s. That is the way to maintain quality in education, not by requiring a minimum grade. A requirement of that kind is only appropriate for people joining from other, unrelated, Bachelor’s programmes.

Joshua Dijksman, Assistant professor at Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter

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For neither student nor university is it desirable for students to choose degree subjects they won’t be able to get much further with. But whether you can solve that with a minimum requirement based on a grade, remains to be seen of course. Not all students follow a straight line; in an academic context you need space for that. A seven strikes me as a very arbitrary threshold which allows little space for individual variations among students. If the university starts implementing such a rule, I think some allowance should be made for individual differences.

Raoul Frijns, Fifth-year Molecular Life Sciences


I don’t think it’s a good idea to set minimum average grades for Master’s programmes. Wageningen UR has many specialist programmes and the majority of the students don’t come to the university just for a BSc. If you can’t take the specifi c follow-on MSc, you are suddenly stuck and you’ll have to go in a totally diff erent direction. What is more, you never know how someone ended up with their grade average. Did someone who needed 20 resits to end up with a seven average really do better that someone who passed every course first time with a 6.5?

Ivanna Colijn, Third-year Food Technology


I am against rejecting ‘six culture students’. Certainly in Wageningen it is quite normal to be involved in committees at student societies, study associations or sports clubs alongside your studies. An active student life is time-consuming but you also learn a lot of skills which come in handy in the course of your career. I can imagine how your studies go on the back burner when you are spending a lot of time on a big committee or board. If the university decides to turn away ‘six culture students’ from an MSc programme, more students will opt to concentrate on their studies instead of taking part in extra-curricular activities. I would consider that a great shame, and I also question whether it will produce better future employees.

Illustration: Henk van Ruitenbeek