Seeking the right level for the BSA

‘First-year students have it hard enough as it is. Don't stand by and watch them struggling; lower the bar for receiving the BSA,’ write student-body representatives at eleven universities in a letter to their executive boards. Eindhoven's student political groups have not signed the letter. They are already in discussion with the Executive Board.

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The binding recommendation (on the continuation of studies) (BSA) has good and bad points, say the student groups. As a sword hanging over the head of one student, it motivates the individual “to get off the couch” and start doing their best; for another, the BSA norm is a source of tension and stress.

But whatever you may think of the BSA, one thing is clear: this is no regular academic year. The way the students see it, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic students cannot be expected to carry on studying as if everything were hunky-dory. “This year we must not view the BSA question as if we were in a normal year,” the open letter states. “That is not the reality.”


DAS Eindhoven and Groep-één have not signed the letter. Joëlle Bink, since January president of DAS Eindhoven, explains her standpoint: “Even before this letter was drafted and signed in other student cities, Eindhoven student groups on the University Council were in discussion with our Executive Board about the BSA. We have agreed amongst ourselves that we will pursue discussions until February 1st. This is the latest possible date on which the Executive Board will make its decision. As these discussions were already underway, for DAS there was nothing to be gained by signing the letter. In meetings we are stating that there are many students for whom studying during a corona pandemic is more difficult than normal. A solution must be found to help these students. We have every confidence that in consultation with the Executive Board we will reach the best possible solution.”


It is a calm letter, and deliberately so. “We do not wish to be at odds with the universities,” says the man behind the initiative, Job Vlak of the Delft student political group ORAS. “We want to sit down and discuss this together. This year the pressure on first-year students is so high that we need to take steps.”

As yet, it seems the universities have no intention of doing so. In their view, the decision is best left to individual degree programs to make: is it possible for their students to study well or should the bar be lowered?


But now the lockdown has again been extended and it is clear that it will be a long time before everything is back to normal. Today administrators within the universities' association VSNU are meeting to discuss, among other things, the BSA, so the students hope that even now a breakthrough will be made.

Bink: “DAS is pleased to see that the Executive Board's decision whether or not to lower the BSA is being supported with data from academic years before and during corona. As well as grades and pass rates, student well-being and motivation are also being taken into consideration. We believe this is very important. Another important question we have is this: If the BSA were to be lowered, what would be the new credit requirement for students?”

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