The binding study advice (bsa), which forces students to achieve a minimum number of credits in their first year, is thought to cause too much stress in students. Students who fail to earn the minimum credits are barred from continuing their studies.
‘In discussions I have with students, it is mentioned time and again’, Dijkgraaf told the NOS. Students’ mental well-being is under pressure, and according to the minister, this is partly due to ‘more stringent rules in education’. Hence, the bsa is to be overturned. In what way precisely is not yet clear.
‘We are sceptical’, says Maartje van den Bosch of WUR’s student council. ‘The bsa in Wageningen is quite different from that in, for example, Rotterdam. Here, you are required to accrue 36 out of the total of 60 credits; there, all sixty. In Rotterdam, it is really difficult to achieve your bsa, but here, it is only 60 per cent of the required credits. We consider this a realistic study pace.’ The student council sent a letter to the ministry of education. Van den Bosch: ‘The letter states that we are happy with the way the bsa is set up here. We don’t want that to change.’
While Dijkgraaf claims that the bsa causes more stress among students, the student council expects that abolishing the Wageningen bsa will create more stress. ‘If you fail to achieve enough credits in your first year, you spend your second year falling behind and trying to catch up, a never-ending circle. Abolishing the bsa will result in more falling back with all the consequences thereof. Delays and the resulting increase in student debt negatively impact student well-being.’ Moreover, the quality of education may be impacted. ‘If a third-year student does group work with a person who has not yet achieved their bsa, they are collaborating with someone who lacks background knowledge. This has a negative effect on the group.’
Dean of Education Arnold Bregt also hopes the bsa will stay intact. ‘Wageningen has the lowest bsa in the Netherlands with 36 points. It is very student friendly and serves only to advise students who really are in the wrong place to look elsewhere. Some find a more fitting programme in Wageningen, and some go elsewhere.’
Bregt understands Dijkgraaf’s criticism of universities with a bsa of 60 credits. ‘That really puts on the pressure. Sometimes student life takes some getting used to. In Wageningen, we give students room to adjust. We use the bsa to stimulate, not to frustrate.’