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Good results ‘Nominal is normal’ pilot

Final report on the pilot project at the social sciences faculty

Few resits and more hours spent studying are the positive points that emerge from the final report of the pilot with the new educational approach ‘Nominal is normal’ at Erasmus University Rotterdam. That more students were passing their first year in one go was already a known fact. So ‘Nominal is normal’ is ensuring that first year students get off to a good start.

In the previous academic year the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSW) began a try-out with the educational approach 'Nominal is normal'. First year students are encouraged to obtain all the requisite credits to pass their first year in one go, for one thing by means of more intensive supervision, more frequent tests and fewer re-sits. Erasmus University is endeavouring to ensure that in this way  students can avoid having to spend time in their second year on subjects they didn’t pass in year one. The aim of the ‘Nominal is normal’ approach is to get students off to a good start in their academic careers.  

Final report    
The pilot in 2011-2012 produced positive results according to the final report published today. Students often needed no resit to pass a subject.  81% of psychology students who obtained all their requisite credits in one year did so without any block test resits. For pedagogic sciences students the figure is 77%. Nor did many students resort to options offered to compensate for the limited number of possible resits.  51% of sociology students did not avail themselves of the compensation option for the block tests. Practicals (skills) involved virtually no resits and relatively few compensatory options.  

Time spend studying
Specific surveys among psychology students reveal that they spent more time studying, which is one of the goals of ‘Nominal is normal’. The number of reported self-study hours is significantly higher than the previous year, especially at the beginning and end of the academic year. This indicates that students make an effort right from the start of their study and work harder at the end to pass their exams.
Rector magnificus Professor Dr Henk Schmidt had already announced at the opening of the Academic Year in September that more students were passing their first year in one go. Moreover, more students are now obtaining all the first year credits in a single year than were previously obtained in two years.  All the results are in the final report.

Practically all the programmes at Erasmus University will be taking part in the 'Nominal is normal' project at the start of the new academic year. The first results of the extensive try-out will be known in the spring. On the basis of these it will be decided whether the pilot will become university policy. 'Nominal is normal' is part of the work that Erasmus University has been doing for years now to improve educational standards. These efforts also include the further training of teachers and small scale teaching for various programmes.

See for more information:

Press office Erasmus University Rotterdam, (010) 408 1216 or press@remove-this.eur.nl


Publication date: 11 January 2013



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