Should you send away students if they failed to obtain the required number of credits? The corona crisis had sharpened the discussion on the controversial binding study advice (BSA). Politicians in the Hague send mixed signals: abolish, or not?
Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven won’t choose a side. She says that institutions of higher education are allowed to make their own decisions. As a result, students from universities of applied sciences receive a different treatment than students from research universities. Applied sciences universities have abolished the BSA this year, just like the year before.
Research universities don’t believe in such a generic measure. Instead, they want to make the decision per program. TU/e follows the guidelines issued by the VSNU. Students who started with their study in the academic year 2019 are required to obtain 40 credits in their first year, or 60 credits in their first two years, 45 of which need to be obtained in their first year.
Chair of Groep-één Ralph van Ierland: “During the University Council’s December meeting, we already briefly discussed the BSA. What we need to be aware of though, is that there are currently two nationwide discussions going on: the BSA for the current first-year students, during times of corona, and the BSA as an instrument in general. We need to discuss these issues separately, and the priority right now lies with the BSA for current first-year students.”
At the University of Groningen, theGroningen Students’ Union (GSb) and co-determination party Lijst Calimero asked first-year students for their opinion on the BSA during times of corona. This resulted in over 500 stories from students who suffer from stress, problems with online education and a lack of concentration.
Continue reading below the comments from students in Groningen.
A few comments:
“I would really like to return to school and actively follow classes. I can’t do that here in my room. I’m close to a depression and barely pass my exams. Not because I don’t like what I’m studying, but because of the entire shitty situation.”
“Usually, part of my exams is multiple choice, but that’s not possible now. It’s also very difficult to stay motivated when all you do is study in your room and follow a lecture from last year now and then. That’s why I believe that you can’t expect students to meet the BSA requirement of 45 credits as easily as they normally do.”
“I experience great anxiety every night because I fear that I won’t meet the BSA requirement this year. The fact that I won’t be able to follow this program for the next couple of years because I don’t perform so well online, makes me very tense.”
“This academic year has been extremely hard, and we’re only half way through. Between travelling home due to family emergencies, the stress has been unbelievable. It had an enormous impact on my mental wellbeing. It’s very difficult to remain motivated if you can’t see your family and have to spend the entire day time locked up in a room by yourself. I know that many of my fellow international students feel the same.”
Concerns over students’ mental wellbeing aren’t increasing in Groningen alone. Peter Vonk, general practitioner in Amsterdam, told medical journal Medisch Contact this week that he has the impression that an increasing number of students suffer from mental problems and use drugs.
A national survey from September showed that students clearly suffered more from anxiety and depression-related problems during the first corona wave than in 2019.
Leniency is always possible
The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) will discuss the BSA and study progress this Tuesday, January 12. But a spokesperson for the association doesn’t expect there to be a change of course. “The agreement is that programs get to make this decision independently, based on how things stand. If there’s a problem with a student’s study progress, leniency is always a possibility.”
Groep-één awaits the outcome from the meeting. “We hope that there will still be enough freedom to look for a suitable solution at our university. We acknowledge that stress among students is higher on average, and we hear from people that they are less motivated under the current situation,” Van Ierland says.
He hopes that adjustments to the BSA will be made for current first-students in a fair manner. But remember that there is a purpose to the BSA, he says. “There’s also a protective element to it for students. In the end, we still want to have the right students at the right programs, but we also don’t want to send students who belong here away because of the crisis. That requires a suitable and if necessary adjusted balance, we believe.”
We were unable to reach newly appointed chair of DAS Eindhoven, Joëlle Brink, for a comment today.