A cap on recruitment should be enforced for degree programmes for which the job prospects are poor. So say the chairs of the top teams, collaborations between the business world, universities and government. Priority should be given to technical programmes, they say in a letter to the minister. Good idea?
Professor of Ethics in the Life Sciences
‘Yes, there are too few science students and we are going to need them in the economy of the future. And yes, something needs to be done. There are currently more Chinese students doing science degrees than there are science jobs in the whole world. If the Netherlands wants to continue being a world player, it will have to invest in technical students. But a cap on recruitment to other degree programmes won't solve it; it won't generate any more interest in the sciences. If you want to stimulate interest in technical subjects, you need good, enthusiastic teachers for maths, physics and chemistry at secondary school. Besides, the top teams are forgetting about strengthening the ‘Wageningen method': the integration of the natural and the social sciences at the universities.'
First year International Development Studies
‘I don't agree with a cap on recruitment. You'd be better off making sure there is good information about career prospects for people choosing what to study. Even if you know that you might not be able to find a job, you might still decide to go for it. It would be a shame to restrict people, and you might end up missing out on some good anthropologists.'
employment agent with Agrojobs in Velp
‘At the moment there is a lot of demand from technical sectors such as civil engineering, agribusiness and nutrition. The demand for nature managers and tropical foresters is small, and it will stay that way for a while. But I think it is up to the students themselves, and a cap on recruitment seems to me a crude approach. The labour market is changing. After the fireworks disaster in Enschede there was suddenly a lot of demand for environmentalists, and the demand for teachers goes up and down like a yoyo. I do think that you can influence students' choices by giving them an idea of the employment prospects. But the choice is up to the students themselves, I think. They have to decide whether a degree course is right for them.'
Maartje van der Knaap
First year International Development Studies
‘By limiting students numbers on certain degree courses you increase the chances of people making the wrong choices. More students will go for their ‘second choice', which will increase the dropout rate and the numbers of students switching course after one year. If you give people freedom of choice, market forces will take care of the balance in the end.'
Pascal ten Have
‘Disagree. Most students don't get jobs that completely match their degree subject anyway. We are living in a dynamic society. Subjects which are ‘out' could suddenly become important again. Take Islamic Studies. After 9-11, there was suddenly much more demand for Islam experts. It is self-regulating. I feel students have the right to their own future. It's better to leave that choice to students than to a bureaucrat in The Hague. We are saying this to the top teams too. We have regular consultations with the ministry and the employers' organization about the top sector policy.'
Fifth year Biology
‘I think a cap on recruitment is nonsense. It's not particularly constructive, the way a course like sport management gets chosen by any lad who doesn't know what he wants to do, I do realize that. But if you limit recruitment you should first make sure there is a better selection method in place so that not all the places go to unmotivated people. Interviews, for example. Promoting technical degrees is pointless. You just attract people who don't really want to do it and you get more dropouts.'
Rodent researcher and on the Gelderland Provincial Council (VVD)
‘A superfluous measure. If students see that there is little market for a degree, they'll do something else. What I think matters is people's motives. If students want to achieve something, then their motivation and career perspectives are the decisive factors.'
First year Plant Biotechnology (from Greece)
If you like a degree course, you should be able do it. But the number of places on the course should be in proportion to the number of jobs: somewhere in between supply and demand. Also, the degree programme should be capable of responding flexibly to new developments on the job market. The university should provide regular employment forecasts as a service to the students.'
Ernst van den Ende
Director Plant Sciences Group and member of the Horticulture and propagation materials top team
‘I haven't seen the letter from the top team chairs and we haven't discussed this either. From the horticulture sector's point of view, I can say: more money is needed for science programmes, because we are delivering too few students. The plant breeding sector wants 80 graduates a year from Plant Sciences, and we only have 30. So we need to profile the programme much better among High School students. That strikes me as a better approach than curbing recruitment to other degrees. If too many students opt for Communication Science, you should encourage them to do something else instead. The minister can support that with promotion funding for science degrees.'
Fifth year Integrate Water Management
‘Everyone should get the opportunity to study what they are interested in. If there is little prospect of a job at the end of it, you should perhaps be made aware of that beforehand, but you should still be able to choose for yourself. More information about job prospects would be a good idea. It would give students a better idea of the labour market too. A big problem with technical courses is that they seem dull, and people often think the only thing you can do with them is to go into research. Information about specific jobs might make them more appealing.'