Economics, management studies under pressure as more students sign up

English language economics and business studies courses are proving a major draw at Dutch universities this academic year and two courses have already imposed a cap on student numbers, the Financieele Dagblad said on Monday. The University of Amsterdam expects to sign up 1,800 first-year students for its business and economics courses this year, compared with 840 in 2016. Of them, between 40% and 50% come from abroad, the UvA told the paper. 'Foreign students think it is cheap to study in the Amsterdam and the UvA has a good name,' spokesman Peter van Baalen told the FD. 'And of course, Amsterdam is a major draw.' In Groningen, the number of first year economics students is set to go up from 1,040 to 1,350 while in Maastricht, 400 first-year economics students will start in September. Rotterdam School of Management, which has 550 places on its international business administration course, has had 2,400 applications this year, of which 75% came from abroad. RSM has brought in a cap on student numbers and requires an average school leaving exam pass of at least seven out of 10. But only one in three Dutch school leavers achieves that grade. 'This is worrying,' said spokesman Adri Meijdam. 'If too few Dutch school leavers qualify for a course with a cap in numbers, they face being pushed out.'  More >

Fewer children are bullied at school

The number of children being bullied at secondary school has fallen sharply following concerted efforts to tackle the problem, according to new education ministry figures. In 2014, 11% of secondary school pupils said they were bullied, but that has now fallen to 5%, the education ministry figures show. At primary schools, one in 10 under-12s say they are the victim of bullying, the same as in 2016 but down from 14% in 2014. Education minister Arie Slob described the reduction as a 'tremendous performance from schools, teachers, pupils, parents and everyone else who has worked on this.' Nevertheless, 'we must remain on top of the situation', Slob said, adding that reducing bullying requires a long-haul effort. Bullying at school hit the headlines in 2012 when three teenagers committed suicide in quick succession because of being bullied at school. In 2013, then-education minister Sander Dekker and the children's ombudsman drew up a plan of campaign to tackle the problem. In 2015, all schools were required by law to tackle bullying. Primary schools In May this year, a report by five Dutch universities and mental health monitor Trimbos found that only four out of 10 popular methods to combat bullying in primary schools actually worked. The report also showed 30% of primary school children experience instances of bullying at school and a smaller group, 1 in 14, is bullied more than once a week. Of this group a third does not tell anyone about the bullying and 97% of these children have been bullied over several years.  More >

Students furious, government ups loan bill

Student campaign group LSVB has reacted angrily to news that the government is planning to extend the fixed interest rate period for student loans from five to 10 years because repayments will be more expensive, broadcaster NOS said on Friday. Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has sent draft legislation to parliament extending the fixed period from five to 10 years to all loans taken out from 2020. The measure was included in the coalition agreement. 10-year loans are more expensive than five-year ones and the minister estimates students will have to pay back an extra 18% a month on their loans - €82 rather than €70 on the average loan of €21,000. However, if students take the full 35 years to pay back the cash, they will be thousands of euros worse off, student groups say. The measure will raise some €226m for the treasury and is necessary to keep the student loan system affordable, the minister said. The government scrapped student grants in 2015 and pledged at the time the extra cash would be ploughed back into education. It also said the debt would not have an impact on mortgage applications. However, it has transpired in the last few days that loans are being included by banks on assessing mortgage applications and that the money saved by scrapping grants has not yet been put into higher education.  More >

Dutch scientist wins Kavli award

Dutch astronomer Ewine van Dishoeck has won the prestigious Kavli award for astrophysics for her work on the origin of stars and planets. She will receive the gold medal and €1m prize money from the hands of King Harald V of Norway on Tuesday. ‘I am still speechless after the phone call from the Norwegian Academy,’ Van Dishoeck, who became chairman of the International Astronomical Union in the same week, said. ‘It’s a great honour, especially for my young co-workers and colleagues worldwide. Thanks to them we are now in the Champions League of astronomy.’ ‘But is not just about pure science but the fact that we are helping to solve one of human kind’s greatest puzzles: are we alone in the universe?’ she added. The Kavli award is awarded every two years by the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters.  More >

Fewer Dutch children cycle to school

Three in 10 Dutch children travel to school by car despite a series of campaigns encouraging them and their parents to take the bike, according to new research. Research agency SOAB found that the number has increased in recent years from 26% even though schools and safety organisations such as Veilig Verkeer Nederland have urged parents to escort younger children by bike. The trend has been partly attributed to the increase in the number of families where both parents work, leaving them with no option but to drop their children off by car on their way to the office, De Telegraaf reported. As well as the health implications, the increased car usage leads to congestion and parking problems at the school gates. Ellen van der Ligt, head teacher at 't Praathuis primary school in Culemborg, said: 'Last week we had the children handing out flyers to motorists. From next week the police will be out enforcing the rules. People who breach the parking regulations will be fined.' Although some parents have valid reasons for using the car, in many cases it becomes the convenient option, said traffic psychologist Gerard Tertoolen. 'It's the idea that we're so horrendously busy. We want to use every minute productively and see cycling or walking to school as dead time.' As well as enforcement measures, some schools have introduced incentives to reward children who go by bike. The cycling4school scheme enables children to earn points by walking or cycling which they can then spend on activities for the class. Ineke Spape, of SOAB, said Breda had cut car use by 10% simply by encouraging children to take the initiative. 'They would rather cycle than sit on the back seat of the car and have been urging their parents to leave the car behind,' she said.  More >