In May, Minister Dijkgraaf announced he’s planning to submit a bill to relax the BSA in the interest of student well-being. This would mean that, as of 2025, first-year students would only be required to obtain 30 out of 60 credits. In the second year they would again have to obtain a minimum of 30 credits.
In a written consultation, it emerged that several parties in the House of Representatives have their doubts about the relaxed norm, just like the universities. However, the minister wants to stay his course because he isn’t convinced by the criticism and because student organisations do like his plans.
Several parties asked him to substantiate the plans using figures. The VVD, which radically opposes the proposal, asked him why he opted for such a low number of credits and if he’s not worried the drop-out rate in later study years will increase as a result.
Dijkgraaf thinks that the 45-credit threshold that is commonly applied at the moment demands too much of the students. They already face a range of new, potentially stressful experiences, such as finding accommodations and learning how to study. Another argument is that students from outside of Europe currently have to obtain 30 credits to keep their residence permits. Dijkgraaf thinks it would be fair for the same norm to apply to everyone.
So what about the drop-out rate in later years? There’s no consensus on this, says the minister. Universities of The Netherlands (UNL) reports that, during the COVID pandemic, later-year students with a provisional BSA obtained ten percent fewer credits than students who had met the BSA norm. However, research by universities of applied sciences Fontys and Zuyd has shown the opposite.
More standards should apply to such a ‘BSA conversation’
In other words, the drop-out rate after the first year is difficult to predict. According to the minister, a “healthy balance between well-being and study progress” remains the most important argument to lower the BSA norm.
GroenLinks sees a number of ways to improve the proposal, stating that the ‘referral function of the BSA’ leaves something to be desired. If students fail to complete their first year, where are they to go? The institutions are said to be of very little help in this respect.
Dijkgraaf agrees more standards should apply to such a ‘BSA conversation’. He wants to take the coming period to discuss with institutions and students what these standards should look like.
GroenLinks and D66 do support the new proposal because they believe it could decrease the pressure and promote student well-being. What’s more, research from Radboud University has shown that students with a migration background, international students and students with an impairment are currently being impacted to a greater extent by a strict BSA. GroenLinks and D66 have asked the minister if this is taken into consideration.
Dijkgraaf has confirmed it is, adding that it’s “of the utmost importance” for everyone to be able to study, “regardless of personal background and any impairments”. Particularly students who fall victim to excessive pressure to perform or mental health problems could benefit from a lower BSA norm, he thinks. Once the law has become effective, he wants to monitor if this is actually the case.
HOP, Peer van Tetterode