A succesful start in higher education

Drop-out rates (including students switching to another programme) in the first year are considerable: 25% at research universities and 30% at universities of applied sciences. The Education Council presented the Minister with a number of measures to reduce these percentages. The most important of these was: reward a successful start by awarding a first-year completion bonus to universities.

10 January 2008
Higher education institutions have already embarked on many initiatives aimed at helping their students to successfully complete their first year. In recent years, there has been increased attention on more contact hours per week, reorientation counselling for students wanting to switch study programmes, as well as honours programmes for highly motivated students. The Education Council would like to see the Minister reward these initiatives and also take additional measures.

First-year completion bonus

Performance could be improved by the introduction of a bonus based on completion of the first year of studies. A first-year transitional examination would at the same time guarantee the standard of learning achieved on the study programme. This should be a matter for the programme directors themselves, albeit in consultation with each other.

Increase the students' sense of belonging

Students who feel a sense of belonging with their institution and programme achieve better academic success. Programmes with high numbers of students would do better if the size of their internal organisation was reduced and made more flexible. Furthermore, student accommodation should be integrated into the academic campus to combine living and learning, especially in the first two years of study.

Make an expansion plan for university colleges

The Education Council also recommends that the Minister prepares a national expansion plan for university colleges so that there are enough places for the very best students.

Agreement on higher education entry levels

Finally, there is a need to improve the transfer from secondary to higher education. The Education Council recommends that representatives of pre-university education (VWO), senior general secondary education (HAVO), higher professional education (HBO) and university education (WO) come together to establish a common standard for entry levels to higher education. This agreement on entry levels to higher education (AAHO) will lead to a series of tests for prospective students, available on the internet. Students will then be able to decide for themselves whether they are suitably prepared for the programme of study. Finally, students and their parents need better information about their chosen programme of study.