Nieuws - 8 maart 2012

Student-friendly university

It is no coincidence that Wageningen always gets high marks from its students in the Dutch guide to higher education. It is a student-friendly university.

 The latest evidence of this is that its board intends to compensate social sciences Master's students for the fine they incur for going ‘over time' with their studies. This means they will not suffer from the fact that their Master's programme takes two years, while the government only offers funding for one year. While other universities consider one year enough for their social science Master's programmes, Wageningen insists on two-year programmes, and accepts the financial consequences of the choice. In doing so, the university invests in the quality of its degree programmes.
The question is, how long the university will be able to keep this up. The two-year social science Master's programme already costs the university extra teaching time, and now an estimated 200,000 euros will be added in compensation for the government's penalizing of the students.
The move would seem to make Wageningen's two-year Master's programmes an attractive alternative to the one-year programmes offered elsewhere, but it will still cost the students more. After all, the basic grant for Master's students is being scrapped from next year, so students on a one-year Master's are going to have to fork out about 3,000 euros extra per year. Those on a two-year programme will need twice that, and if they need an extension, it will cost them even more. Are Wageningen's Master's programmes in the social sciences worth an extra loan of 3,000 euros? Do students think they can recoup the extra investment later on the labour market? Recruitment figures for the social science Master's programmes over the coming years will provide the answer to this question.
If recruitment does take a dent, it won't be the university's fault, as it is prepared to compensate students for the 3,000 euro ‘Halbe fine'. And that measure does seem to be having an impact: according to the Resource survey, it is already influencing the behaviour and choices made by one in five students.