Thursday 04 June 2020

Universities must be more strict about who they let in: report

Universities are too much alike in the Netherlands and too many students fail at the first hurdle, independent government science and technology advisory body AWTI has said in a report on how to make higher education future proof.

The report, which is to be handed over to education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven on Wedsneday, contains a number of recommendations and calls for stricter admission criteria for students.

‘It is important that young people choose a course that is suited to them but that is not always the case,’ chair of the research committee Uri Rosenthal said. Drop-out rates are high. ‘A quarter and sometimes up to a third of the students is taking up studies that are not for them, Rosenthal said.

There is also a mismatch between the courses on offer and the labour market which has resulted in a lack of people trained in science and technology, the committee found.

Student organisations said in a reaction that a stricter selection of bachelor students will make higher education less accessible and that selection tests are ‘random and not based on science’.

Small university departments and studies to which a fixed number of students are are already selecting students and since 2014 this has been the case for master students as well.

Financing

ATWI member Sjoukje Heimovaa said there is too little to distinguish Dutch universities  from each other due to the way they are financed.

‘They are rewarded if their student numbers grow and if they chase as many financial sources for research as possible. This has resulted in institutions that are becoming more and more alike. They also don’t work together enough,’ Heimovaa said.

That lack of scientific focus is a threat to Dutch research, the report said. Universities are not concentrating enough on developing their own particular fields of expertise which means top scientific talents do not stay here but go abroad to continue their studies at specialised universities.

Universities are also failing to take up the scientific challenges put to them by developments in society, something the ATWI said should become an important factor in financing.

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