Blog & Opinion
7 September 2018 • Rajash Rawal
Lower BSA or better education for less stress?
Ingrid van Engelshoven, our Minister of Education, stated on Monday, 3 September that she wanted to lower the Binding Study Advice (BSA) standard to 40 credits. That came as a shock, and that’s putting it mildly. It’s been on my mind all week. What problem is she hoping to solve with this? Reducing stress? Increasing study success? In any case, it is a complex issue for which I don’t think there is a simple answer.
If the minister wants to tackle study stress, then lowering the BSA is a short-term political solution. If you can progress to the second year with 40 credits then you are faced with the challenge of catching up with those 20 credits on top of the 60 credits you have to get in the second year. For clarity: that is double the number of points you obtained in the first year. So, guaranteed stress. We had a BSA standard of 40 credits a few years ago. I warned first-year students: “You can pass with 40 credits, but it will be tough going after that.” My experience is that most of the students who went to the second year with 40 credits didn’t manage to make up those 20 credits. Moreover, it adds to the lecturers’ workloads because they must ensure the students can catch up with the courses and, preferably, as quickly as possible.
If the measure is intended to increase study success, then I say, let’s first see if the previous change has worked. In 2013, THUAS increased the BSA to 50 credits for all programmes – in part because the ministry decided the bar should be increased. We were concerned that many students would therefore pack up and leave, but that didn’t happen. But, I did see a ‘better group’ of students in the second year, who were better equipped to start the main phase. It is of course hard to say whether that is due to the increased standard, the renewed curriculum or other interventions.
Neither does the minister’s measure solve financial problems for students. Most students have to work to pay for their studies. With a lower BSA standard, you facilitate study delays, which for many students means working more and/or borrowing more. From a financial perspective, higher education is set up to get your diploma within four years.
Engaging in discussions
The good thing about the minister’s proposal is that she has opened up the debate. I would be more than happy to engage in discussions with her, other universities of applied sciences and all of you – the staff and students at THUAS – to see how we should change our education. It is up to us to involve students more in their studies. We must ensure their curriculum is worth the effort. That the lessons serve a purpose. That students learn actively and participate. That they see the usefulness of what they are doing during their education. When you feel positively involved it takes less effort to apply yourself, and you experience less stress because of it.
I look forward to continued discussions about this.
As a member of the Executive Board, one of the things Rajash Rawal focuses on is education and internationalisation. He is a true educator to the core and knows THUAS through and through. He arrived as an exchange student roughly twenty years ago. He became a lecturer/researcher for the European Studies programme and later programme manager and faculty director. He still gives classes.