Blog & Opinion
18 April 2019 • Anastasiya Dusanska
What is my university of applied sciences diploma really worth?
I began to ask myself this question during my search for a suitable master. At most universities, degree programmes that offer a pre-master’s are few and far between. And when you do find one that offers a pre-master’s programme, they demand that you are a prodigy with an average of eight or higher. Have these universities never heard of the Dutch culture of just scraping by with a passing grade? Sometimes, if you really dig deep online, you come across a degree programme that will admit you right away. But then you discover it’s one where you have to pay thirty thousand euros in tuition per academic year. Apparently the research universities also didn’t get the memo explaining that university of applied sciences degree programmes take longer than research university degrees, so university of applied sciences students usually have more student debt and fewer euros.
University of applied sciences diploma or an extra chromosome?
To be very honest, the proud feeling of obtaining my European Studies bachelor’s degree didn’t last very long. During the open days for master degrees, university of applied sciences graduates are treated like people with an intellectual disability. Once I listened to an hour-long information session about a master and only at the very end did the lecturer say that people with a university of applied sciences degree were not admissible at all. If I get on a tram that doesn’t stop at a wheelchair-accessible stop, please tell me before I get on. Apparently even the time of university of applied sciences students is less valuable than that of research university students.
Wasn’t practice-oriented supposed to be better?
I don’t deny the fact that the research universities have a point when they say there is a difference in how universities of applied sciences conduct research compared to research universities. After all, I was able to experience it in person during my pre-master. What is still unclear to me, is why there should be a difference at all. I have always been under the assumption that universities of applied sciences were more focused on practice and that should give you an advantage in the workplace, compared to a research university student. While they are looking for sources that support their hypothesis for the solution of a case, you have already solved the problem. Only I was never told that before I step onto the work floor I will have to drastically adjust my expectations. Your options after obtaining your bachelor’s degree are not nearly as broad as the open days of degree programmes lead you to believe.
Is the university of applied sciences diploma a lemon?
For a moment I thought I could outsmart people and applied for a traineeship. Working and studying while your employer pays for it and also understands why you cannot work overtime, because you still have to finish your homework that he or she is paying for. But even the traineeships require a master’s degree. Maybe it’s my fault, or the fault of the degree I have chosen, and perhaps I choose things that are out of my reach. But if that were the case, wouldn’t my friends share the same frustrations? I am not even talking about my foreign fellow students who are left in shock when they realise that they cannot start a university master’s degree immediately after graduation. So I cannot help but ask myself, what is my university of applied sciences diploma worth if I want to transfer to a research university? Did I buy a very expensive lemon that I will be paying off for decades to come?
See also this article in H| News about limited number of bridging courses to transition from a university of applied sciences to a research university.
Anastasiya graduated from The Hague University of Applied Sciences (European Studies) in 2018. She has started the pre-master’s programme Intercultural Communication at Utrecht University and writes about her experiences there. In her spare time, Anastasiya practices Zumba and Krav Maga.