Response to plan to lower norm for ‘BSA’

Dutch Minister Van Engelshoven (Education) wants to lower the norm for binding study advice (BSA) to a maximum of 40 credits in the first year. That should reduce the pressure on students. Not a good plan, says the Executive Board. 

The minister's announcement during the Opening of the Academic Year at Tilburg University came as a surprise to the universities, including Erasmus University. 

Our university in particular performs a lot of research into education, learning results and graduation rates. In Rotterdam, however, we see no signs of increased psychological pressure caused by that binding study advice. 

Our research does not show a direct relationship between the requirement to pass your first year in one go and psychological problems. And if students are under more pressure, other factors may also be involved, such as the student loan system and social media, according to national research,

Active learning
Lowering the BSA norm in inconsistent with the positive results achieved in the education system that we introduced in 2012. In that education system, we feel it is important that students pass their first year in one go, with all the credits. That is not always easy and sometimes involves hard work. 
In the past, however, we found that a lower BSA norm and the numerous resit opportunities caused significant delays in students completing their studies. And with the Dutch student loan system, this does not benefit students. 

Achieving all the grades is part of a whole package of measures to promote student graduation rates with active learning and to improve the quality of the education. Examples include the many test moments, assignments and small scale of many programmes. The approach therefore fits in with the measures taken by EUR to improve the educational quality. We introduced them at the time in good consultation with faculties, programme directors and representative bodies (students and staff). We also conducted extensive pilots first. By means of a research programme, we monitor the effects so that we can make adjustments based on data. 

We feel it is important that students pass their first year in one go



Obviously, we offer students as much support as possible. Within certain frameworks, they can compensate unsatisfactory grades. Also students are still able to do a limited number of resits. It is therefore certainly not the case that a student who does not pass one course immediately receives a negative study advice. And students can also lodge an appeal based on personal circumstances. 

More focus
The approach works: research has shown that first-year students are now more focused and concentrate more on their studies. It helps more students achieve their goal: successfully completing their foundation course within one year of starting their studies. It has also appeared that the implementation of our package of measures has definitely not resulted in more students having to drop out of their studies than was previously the case. And that there is no difference in success rates among student groups. In fact only benefits. 

We will be happy to explain the Minister why we feel it is important that the BSA norm is not collectively lowered. We feel that such choices must be made in educational circles, so that they are tailored to the programmes concerned. Erasmus University wants to ensure that its first-year students make a good start to their academic career. 

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