Science - June 3, 2004

University to raise admissions requirements

Wageningen University is planning to raise the admissions requirements for Master’s programmes so drastically that the threshold will become too high for many students. International students who need to do more than three courses to bring them up to the required level will no longer be admitted after September 2005. Dutch students from colleges of higher professional education (HBOs) will have to take a ‘transitional’ programme.

These are the main points from a memorandum written by the working group ‘MSc admissions’, led by the Director of Education and Student Affairs, Paul Deneer. According to the law, MSc programmes must not contain too many introductory subject courses, as this lowers the level of the degree course. The working group therefore wants to reduce the number of courses students can take to bring them up to the required level to three (thirteen study points). The courses must also not be of the lowest level. Students with a degree from a HBO or a Bachelor’s degree from a foreign university are at present exempt from the internship (stage) and often use the time to fill up the gaps in their knowledge. In the future this will no longer be possible.

According to the working group, the route from HBO to university is not ‘logical’ because the end results of the HBO Bachelor’s are not of a high enough academic standard. In practice it turns out that incoming HBO graduates often do not have enough knowledge and lack basic academic skills. To address this issue, the working group has suggested that HBO graduates will have to do a pre-entry course. For Master’s degrees where there is high demand the education institutes can organise ‘transitional’ programmes.

A ‘transitional’ programme may last up to six months, and will cost 2,850 euros, which the students will have to pay themselves. Van Hall-Larenstein is planning on introducing a preparatory course in a number of its own degree courses, so that students from this college of professional education can move on directly to a Wageningen Master’s degree. For courses that do not attract so many students, it will be impossible to arrange a ‘transitional’ programme.

International students will not be offered a ‘transitional’ programme by Wageningen. The working group’s enquiries made it clear that none of the thirty international students in the current Master’s of Management Economics and Consumer Studies would have been admitted under the new admissions criteria. “There is a certain group of international students that we really do not want here,” said Liesbeth van der Linden of the Department of Education and Student Affairs. “In other cases it should be possible to bring up the level of prospective students in their own country using distance learning.”

The memorandum has been presented to the education institutes and the education committees. The Executive Board and the Student Council will take an official decision in September. University Rector Professor Bert Speelman has already indicated to the Student Council that he is in favour of accepting the recommendations.

Guido van Hofwegen