Organisation - June 21, 2012

BSc students graduate faster and faster

University students in Wageningen are managing to complete their Bachelor's with increasing speed. Over the past two years the completion rate rose by 30 percent. Of the cohort starting in 2007, no less than 62 percent attained their Bachelor's degree (officially a three-year course) within four years. For students starting in 2005, that figure was just 48 percent. This is reported in the Wageningen UR Annual Report 2011, which was published this week on the intranet.

Sanne Mirck of the Student Council suspects that these days students are embarking on their studies with a different attitude. 'Graduating on schedule is the norm. Passing courses is taking priority. I imagine this is due to the government's measures.'
For years now, the government and universities have been trying to accelerate completion times. A fine for slow students, for example, was introduced by state secretary Halbe Zijlstra. Anyone running up more than one year's extension is obliged to pay 3000 euros per year in additional tuition fees. And students will soon face the 'hard cutoff point' rule: they may only start a Master's once they have completed their Bachelor's. This measure won't become binding until 2013, but according to Pim Brascamp, university education director,  study advisers are already recommending this route. 'Until a couple of years ago, students were advised to do exactly the opposite: get started on their Master's subjects while finishing up their Bachelor's.'
Study advice
In addition, Wageningen's university is advising its students more rigorously than in the past. First-year students get help with planning and scheduling and they receive a study recommendation. As already happens at VHL, the university is considering making binding the recommendation to leave the study programme, a consequence of the university's agreement with the Ministry of Education to further boost student completions. Of the students who started this past year, as many as 75 per cent must gain their Bachelor's within four years. Tardy students will have no choice but to accept study skills training. And first-years will get more teaching hours and interim tests.
The Annual Report also reveals that there is no change in VHL's student completion rate. At the applied science university this is expressed in average study duration. Students at the Velp and Wageningen sites take an average of 4.5 years to complete their courses. In Leeuwarden that percentage rose from 4.5 to 4.6 years. The number of drop-outs in Leeuwarden has risen considerably, from 187 in 2009 to 275 last year.
The completion rates of Master's students were already high; nine out of ten earn the degree within three years. The high proportion of international students, almost 50 per cent, contributes to this success. For them studying is an expensive business.

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