24 June 2019 • HOP, Melanie Zierse
AWTI clarifies advice on stricter selection
MPs are critical of the advice from the AWTI that research universities and universities of applied sciences should have more room to apply stricter admission requirements. “Only use selection where necessary, otherwise not at all”, expounded the advisory council yesterday.
Dutch higher education and research are still among the best in the world, but this is under threat, stated the Advisory Board for Science, Technology and Innovation (AWTI) last week. “There are objections and some are trying to take advantage”, repeated Chair Uri Rosenthal yesterday during a ‘technical briefing’ to the spokespeople for education from the Lower House.
Stricter admission requirements
One of the key points of the adviceis that institutes need to develop stronger profiles in order to stay ahead of increasing global competition. They also need to collaborate better. That call is nothing new, according to AWTI Councillor Sjoukje Heimovaara. “But we see that this simple recommendation has not led to a more profiled system, on the contrary it has become more uniform.”
Therefore research universities and universities of applied sciences need to be given more opportunities to introduce a more rigorous selection process, argues the AWTI. That would enable them to manage their student flows better and thus realise the intended profile. Political party D66 did not fully understand this part of the advice. Early this week, Minister van Engelshoven made it clear that she was not in favour of that. “Have the possible negative consequences of selection been considered?” asked political party GroenLinks.
A few comments need to be added, responded Heimovaara. “Only use selection where necessary, otherwise not at all.” That sounds somewhat less rigid, noted GroenLinks. According to the AWTI councillors, institutes must take care that they don’t intentionally select students “based on specific diversity”. But they emphasised that good solid selection methods do exist.
Should we not leave the student to make the final assessment, GroenLinks wanted to know. The party argues for good information and matching interviews instead of stricter selection processes. Heimovaara thinks both are advisable. “The fact remains that there are high dropout rates with various degree programmes and that’s because students at that age don’t have a good idea of what they want and can do. I think we need to help and protect them.”
According to the AWTI, the differences between universities of applied sciences and research universities also need to be more distinctive. Universities of applied sciences should not be aiming to look like research universities and should focus on vocational education, above all. They can make that clearer than is currently the case, stated the advisory council. But if you extend that idea, then shouldn’t degree programmes for dentistry, doctors or lawyers then also be removed from the research universities? “No”, said Rosenthal, Chair. “We don’t want to go that far. We must continue to do right by traditions that have developed over the centuries.”