Students who haven’t got the prerequisite diploma yet will be able to get started on their next degree anyway with a conditional acceptance. At TU Delft, this arrangement is called the zachte knip.
This goodwill gesture has been included in the new service document the Ministry of Education has just posted online. The underlying idea is: students who are in the last phase of their study programme should not be disadvantaged because the coronavirus crisis has gone on for so long.
Six month delay
During the first lockdown, universities and universities of applied sciences decided to relax their admissions requirements for a year. Because of the pandemic, there was a big chance that some students — through no fault of their own — would not be able to earn all the credits needed to graduate by the deadline.
They might be missing one last lab course that had been cancelled or were prevented from doing research for a Bachelor’s thesis that’s waiting to be written. In brief: whoever had not finished by September would automatically suffer a six month study delay, if not more.
Institutions of higher education wanted to do something about this. They devised all kinds of waivers, for example for MBO or Associate Degree students who wanted to enrol in an HBO Bachelor’s programme or HBO students who intended to start a university Bachelor’s programme after completing their first year. The Bachelor’s-before-Master’s rule (harde knip, Dutch only) was abolished. Similar measures were devised for teacher training students who were unable to sit an admissions exam, as well as for non-native speakers who had not yet passed their state exam in Dutch.
By now a whole year has passed and, although the vaccination programme is being rolled out, in the present lockdown, the situation for students is not much different than it was in spring 2020.
Educational institutions will therefore again be looking into their hearts. Students who have not yet accumulated all the credits required to graduate or obtain their first-year certificate will be permitted to start on their next chosen programme of study conditionally.
Just as last year, they will not be receiving any exemption: ultimately the students will have to meet all the enrolment requirements. In principle they will be granted until 1 January 2022 to do so, according to the Ministry. But if anyone suffers hardship due to the deadline it can be extended until 1 September 2022. Universities and universities of applied sciences will in any case be able to grant Master’s students extensions until that date.
Stacking not allowed
In a recent meeting between the student council and the Executive Board, the zachte knip was already discussed. Head of Education & Student Affairs Geerlinge Pessers-Van Reeuwijk then announced that the TU Delft, for the sake of clarity, will probably stick to the same regulation as last year. With an important addition: stacking is not allowed. Students who made use of the arrangement this year are not eligible again. They must have completed their Bachelor's degree before 31 August 2021.
The service document also for the first time offers a grace period for students who enrol on 1 February. The Minister expects that by then education will be out of lockdown and students will then have completed their prerequisite degree. But should that unexpectedly not be the case, then they too will receive a conditional acceptance.
The Dutch National Student Association is pleased with the renewed grace period. “Particularly the provision for those enrolling in February is a really big step”, chairperson Dahran Çoban said. “Last year a lot of students were asking for this.”
The Dutch National Student Association (ISO) has insisted that the application process have a low threshold. “Last year some students had to go through a multi-stage process to conditionally apply, with all kinds of additional interviews and administration fees. Hopefully that will be different next year. The agreement has now been reached that it be made as simple and easy as possible. The ideal situation for us would be that students just sign up and then get the okay.”
HOP, Evelien Flink