Tuesday 06 December 2022

Cum laude distinction to be scrapped for VU medical students

The university’s main entrance. Photo: Galaufs via Wikimedia Commons

VU university’s medical faculty will abolish the cum laude distinction for master students because it puts them under too much pressure to perform.

‘Graduating with honours is putting the emphasis on performance instead of learning,’ Hester Daelmans, the head of master studies at the Amsterdam university, told the Parool.

The university said it hopes that the change, which was made after consultation with students and lecturers, will make students better and more resilient doctors. ‘It’s no longer about students who wants to excel but about people who want to learn and work in teams,’ Daelmans said.

Lisette de Roos, who chairs student union ISO, said the move could be a solution for the pressure experienced by students. A joint study by the Trimbos Institute, public health institute RIVM and regional health boards at the end of last year showed that over half of students are having mental problems linked to the pressure to perform to a high standard.

She said she was not aware of other universities wanting to ditch the distinction, which is subject to different requirements at each university.

Fifth year medical student Julia van den Oever, head of medical student organisation De Geneeskundestudent, said that ‘grades alone don’t make good doctors.’

But universities must also tackle the underlying problems, she said. Interns, for example, are supposed to work a maximum of 46 hours a week but most work an average of eight hours more.

‘Students are feeling duty bound to stay. Universities must monitor this better and make clear that longer hours don’t automatically lead to a better assessment,’ Van den Oever said. The cum laude distinction will be abolished from next year.

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