MBO graduates doing fine in HBO
Senior secondary vocational education (MBO) graduates are actually doing well at universities of applied sciences (HBO). They’re proving the doomsday scenarios wrong. Even so, males and ethnic minority students show signs of struggling.
Jet Bussemaker, the Minister of Education, is going to allocate 11 million euros to ease the transition from MBO to HBO. Meanwhile, over the next few months, experienced HBO students are putting their heads together in special ‘Student Labs’ to devise their own plans for this, and their best ideas will actually be applied.
The problems faced by MBO graduates are a high-priority issue among universities of applied sciences. Universities of applied sciences have repeatedly stated that MBO graduates are not well prepared for higher education and drop out too often. What are needed, they say, are special transition classes and stricter intake requirements.
But are the problems associated with MBO graduates really that great? Statistics say otherwise. The doomsday scenarios apply only to the first academic year when they are actually having a hard time of it and twice as many drop out as compared to senior general secondary education (HAVO) graduates (22% versus 12%). Once they get through the first year, things look a lot better.
How many students have graduated from a bachelor’s degree programme within five years? For both HAVO and MBO graduates, this is about 45%, with a difference of only 0.7%. This means that both groups achieve (or fail to achieve) at the same rate within this time frame,
and most who take longer will also have graduated within eight years. Anyone who hasn’t graduated by then most probably won’t. Overall, thus, 69.2% of the former HAVO pupils will graduate versus 62.8% of the former MBO pupils : a difference of only 6.4%.
Another consideration is the high percentage of dropouts among the former MBO pupils during their first year: those remaining will do just fine and perform even better than former HAVO pupils. So is the early dropout rate really so critical? After all, MBO graduates already have a diploma they can use to get a job. And isn’t the first academic year actually intended to help students determine whether a degree programme is worth continuing?
Men versus women
Greater problems are revealed, however, when other groups of students are compared. Statistics repeatedly show that men struggle more than women. In general, women perform better academically than men. Female MBO graduates, for example, perform better than male HAVO graduates.
After five years, more than 30% of the male HAVO graduates have received their HBO diploma as opposed to 50% of the female MBO graduates. Even after eight years, the men haven’t caught up. So why do universities of applied sciences emphasise the problems of former MBO pupils? Maybe it would be a good idea to offer men a transition class before they enter a university of applied sciences. Women are getting by as it is.
A student’s ethnic background appears to be even more important than his or her previous education. Whatever the reason (discrimination, culture, finances), students with a non-Western background experience more problems at universities of applied sciences. But consider this: non-minority MBO graduates will later perform almost as well as pre-university (VWO) graduates with a non-Western background, while you would expect all VWO graduates to score much better than their classmates with an MBO diploma.
But if you think that these statistics and comparisons are a bit distracting, remember this: for non-minority HBO students, their previous education makes no difference. On average, they will perform just as well whether they have an MBO or a HAVO diploma.
All of a sudden, we see a major difference among students with a non-Western background as related to whether they were MBO or HAVO graduates . (These MBO graduates have a 48% graduation rate from HBO as compared to 61% for these HAVO graduates.) So is their previous education the factor – or is it something else?
Maybe it’s the degree programme
Finally, certain HBO degree programmes might have to take a closer look at themselves. In general, former MBO pupils continuing their education in the care, technical, art, social and agricultural degree programmes are performing almost as well as the former HAVO pupils. The problems are associated with the economics and teacher training degree programmes.
Overall, 63% of the former MBO pupils will graduate from a university of applied sciences. That’s more than three in five. Shouldn’t we simply encourage MBO pupils to take up the challenge of an HBO education? At this time, not even 40% of them are doing this immediately after receiving their level-4 MBO diploma. Isn’t this too few considering the favourable statistics?
© charts: Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau. Source: The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences Graduation rates after five years (enrolment year: 2010) Graduation rates after eight years (enrolment year: 2007)