Currently, anyone who obtains a Bachelor’s degree at Wageningen can go on to a Wageningen Master’s programme. And it is going to stay that way for now, says Tiny van Boekel, director of the Education Institute of Wageningen UR.
Since about two years ago Dutch law does allow for the possibility of not automatically admitting internal Bachelor’s students to Master’s programmes. The Dutch universities have yet to make use of this right, but it has unleashed a debate. It is being talked about in Wageningen too, says Van Boekel. ‘But we haven’t come to a conclusion yet.’
A clear advantage, according to Van Boekel, is that you can both raise standards on the programme and advise some students to look for a more suitable programme for them elsewhere. A counter-argument is: if passing the Bachelor’s degree – even if only with a grade 6 – is not enough to admit you to the Master’s, what does that say about the standard of the Bachelor’s degree?
For students coming in from other universities, including applied science programmes, universities were always allowed to use a selection procedure. And Wageningen University does so, checking whether the student’s first degree is a good preparation for the planned post-graduate course, as well as whether the student’s level, English language proficiency and motivation are up to scratch. The university is now authorized to evaluate its own Bachelor’s students in the same way, but is not yet doing so.
The student council is keeping its finger on the pulse. In a joint statement the three Wageningen student parties say: ‘It remains important that all students have access to good education at an institution and on a course of their choice. It is too hard to evaluate students purely on the basis of grades. It should remain possible to admit students on the basis of strong motivation, for example.’
The students raise another important point: ‘At the national level we should watch out for universities wanting to be number one (…) It would be detrimental for universities to start competing in this area. So good communication and consultation at the national level is crucial. We in the student council see this plan as very risky. So we are examining it critically and will take part in the discussion actively.’
Van Boekel acknowledges that once one university installs a selection process for Master’s programmes, other will probably follow suit.