In striving for a more inclusive and flexible higher education system, the recent decision to lower the binding recommendation on the continuation of studies (BSA) to 30 points has triggered much discussion. While some people are critical about this change, it is important to recognise its potential advantages and place the decision in the right context.
I have always felt that the idea behind the BSA has always been to encourage students to take their studies seriously and create a strong academic foundation. It works like a kind of screening process to make sure that students are in the right place and work on their degree programme. Dropping the BSA to 30 points should create a more inclusive and flexible system. It will give students the opportunity to adapt and grow, even if they initially find some subjects difficult.
But it does make you feel torn. For me the BSA did its job. At the end of my first year I only had 42 points but had the chance to get my BSA in the resits at the end of summer. I managed it with a lot of stress and coffee, but some of my friends in similar positions did not. The planned reduction in the number of points probably makes them feel bitter.
Stress among students is high must be taken seriously
And imagine if I had got those 42 points with the current BSA minimum of 30 points. I would probably have had a much more enjoyable summer as I would have had to study less or not at all for the resits. But maybe I wouldn’t even have gotten those 42 points. The outcome would then have been that I would have understood the subject less well and would have earned fewer points, just like my friends who could then continue their studies. Should universities transition to a 30 point BSA, my concern would be that many students would be on shaky ground for the rest of their bachelors and that students like me would throw in the towel.
In my study, Applied Physics, the discussion around retaining students is always ongoing. It may be somewhat comparable to other studies, but in physics the problem is that students do not retain the knowledge they learn in the subjects. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that we have an exam week every five weeks. All teachers advise against this, but many students cram for the exam the weekend before and only just get through with a six. This means scraping through your study and the information goes in one ear and out the other. These students also have more problems with particularly hard subjects as you really need to understand the material.
I am concerned that if you lower standards in the first year, many students will start their second year on shaky ground. I understand that it is a hard decision. Stress among students is really high at the moment and this must be taken seriously. So let’s in any case agree not to raise the BSA to 60 in the first year.
Bas Rooijakkers is a master’s student in Applied Physics. He was born in Brabant and spent part of his youth on Curaçao. He enjoys jogging and since the corona pandemic has also picked up cycling. He is also always in for a coffee or a craft beer.