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UR | The domino effect


At the last University Council meeting, a topic was discussed that will probably rear its ugly head every year for the foreseeable future. I am of course talking about the limits imposed on the number of students that can be accepted into a certain program. These so-called caps or numeri fixi are a last resort measure to handle the enormous growth of students subscribing to this university, caused by the need for more technical experts.

Not only the TU/e is forced to implement caps but other universities are slowly catching on as well, starting a domino effect across the Netherlands, which begs the question: ‘How far will this go?’.

There is currently a shortage of technical experts in the Netherlands, so a couple of years ago the task was given to certain universities, ours chief among them, to start providing more of such experts. On a national level recruitment tools like Techniekpact raised awareness and locally our TU/e implemented a new educational system, the Bachelor College, to provide students with a lot more freedom to choose their own path within a certain program. Both techniques worked exceptionally well as student numbers started to increase dramatically and within a couple of years they have risen to a number that could, if left unchecked, endanger the quality of the education we provide.

Since the quality of education is paramount at our university, we had to make some tough decisions. The toughest of them all was the decision to implement a numerus fixus on those programs that could no longer provide high quality education because of the sheer amount of students that applied for the programs. Last year this was the case for four programs and for this year two more programs will probably receive a cap as well, namely Built Environment and Mechanical Engineering. As University Council consenting to the implementation of these caps is difficult, but we understand that the circumstances unfortunately demands it.

Other universities, such as TU Delft and Wageningen University, have also resorted to implementing caps. The unfortunate result is that caps seem to breed more caps, resembling a domino effect. An example of this effect is that applications skyrocketed for Computer Science in Delft after we capped our Computer Science program, consequently applications for our Built Environment program also increased more than expected after Delft implemented a cap for their Built Environment program.

How far the dominoes will fall is still uncertain as of this moment, but it is reasonable to expect that more caps will have to be implemented in the future, especially if we consider the current trend of recent budget cuts regarding higher education. Until that trend is broken and we’re given the financial tools to handle the enormous growth, we will continue to find solutions that the growth imposes on us. We are a university of technology after all.

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