Voorzitter College van Bestuur
In: Uncategorized3 Feb 2011
These were the words of Alexander Pechtold in his address to protesting students in The Hague last week. By showing his hand, the leader of D66, the Dutch Democratic party, indicated that he, too, found the so called “langstudeerderswet” (a draft law that penalizes students who need more time to graduate) unfortunate. Having seen the draft bill which was sent to Parliament this week, the situation has become a little clearer, albeit not fairer. At least we now know that the government is just looking for budget cuts. Simple savings, without pretension of quality upgrades or redirection of means. Tuition for students will increase (3000 euros per year for each year in excess of ‘nominal+1′ for bachelors and for masters programmes) and university budgets will be cut (190 miljon for all universities lumped together). We cannot calculate yet what this means for our university, as it is unclear on what grounds the cuts will be distributed. These measures are not evidence based, but secretary of State Halbe Zijlstra squarely admits that he assumes they will be effective: “the higher the price of a public service, the more cautious students will be in buying it.” The irony of it all is that with a few relatively simple measures, universities would be able to address the root causes of the problem. Which measures? Well, lets start with three: (1) ’selection at the gate’, (2) changing the financial incentive structures so that universities don’t need to push volume to the extreme and (3) give us a real BSA (binding study advice) with teeth (i.e. one that allows us to cut off back alleys into alternative studies for those students who will be too unlikely to succeed within a reasonable timeframe). By ensuring that only those students are admitted who have a good fighting chance to be successful, and by then making sure they receive the best possible education within the means available to us, we could diminish the number of unsuccessful students, improve our retention rates and increase our productivity (i.e. graduate more students for the same amount of money). This is what we have learned from top universities around the world. Tell me please, your Excellency, is this an offer you can refuse?
Pauline van der Meer Mohr is president of the Executive Board and is responsible for general administrative matters, such as the relationship with the Board of Trustees and the University Council. She focuses on the strategic policy, international affairs and external contacts, including the Rotterdam region, industry and other knowledge institutions.