News - May 10, 2012

Binding study recommendation in sight for lax students

Wageningen UR is considering giving Bachelor's students who don't get enough credits in their first year a binding recommendation to stop their studies. This plan is among the performance agreements the university sent to the Ministry of Education at the start of May.

Target: 75 percent of the students have a first degree by 2015.
The university is making a proviso: slow students will be able to continue studying at Wageningen UR if they invest in improving their study skills and respond well to supervision by a study adviser. The university does not feel a recommendation based purely on the number of credits is acceptable.
The performance agreements are an initiative by the state secretary, Halbe Zijlstra. He wants 7 percent of higher education funding (and ultimately 20 percent) to be determined by the performance of applied and academic universities. The idea is that they should improve teaching quality and reduce the drop-out rate.
Wageningen's performance agreements include a promise that, in 2012, 75 percent of Bachelor's students will get their degree within four years. At present, that ratio is 62 percent. The university plans to achieve this target by offering first-year students courses on how to improve their study skills. This training will be compulsory for slow students. Students will also get more hours of contact with staff and more interim tests in the first term so that they get into the habit of studying right from the start.

Student Council VeSte is reasonably pleased with the university's plans. 'We oppose a binding study recommendation but we are prepared to discuss the option in combination with a study skills course and permanent investments in study advisers,' says council member Sanne Mirck.
Mirck says the target of 75 percent for the graduation/enrolment ratio is realistic. 'The slow student fine has already led to a change in attitude among first years. Finishing your degree within the official time period is becoming the norm. If the university also invests in study advisers and courses for improving study skills, then VeSte is confident 75 percent is attainable.' She does foresee students having less time for personal development outside their studies, which Mirck thinks is a shame. 'A university education is about more than just studying. But the government unfortunately sees things differently.'
Pim Brascamp, Director of the Educational Institute, says the applied and academic universities will still have to keep to the performance agreements even though the government has fallen. 'All the parties support an improvement in the graduation/enrolment ratio. Even if we think it's nonsense, I am assuming a new cabinet will take the same view as the outgoing cabinet. These agreements will be implemented in full.'