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Universities relax BSA requirements after all

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After months of discussions, the fourteen Dutch universities have decided to lower the requirements for binding study recommendations (also known as BSAs) for the current academic year by 10 to 15 percent after all. The decision was made in light of the coronavirus crisis and the most recent lockdown. At UU, this means a lowering of 7.5 credits.

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The binding study advice (BSA) is a mechanism forcing first-year students who have not earned enough credits to drop out of their programmes. The pandemic has ignited Dutch higher education to discuss whether it is fair to keep the BSA amidst a pandemic, which then led them – and the parliament -- to debate whether the BSA is a good idea at all.

According to the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), universities have been monitoring student progress very closely in recent months and they have found that most students are meeting their targets, so the BSA will be maintained.

However, because students’ wellbeing has come under tremendous pressure, especially considering the lockdown has been extended by three weeks, universities and universities of applied sciences have decided to show leniency in issuing BSAs.

Each university will shortly publish their individual policy as regards this decision. One way or the other, first-year students will be required to complete fewer credits to progress to their second year of study.

Moreover, universities will be able to adjust the BSA rules further, if they deem it necessary. This could be the case for programmes that are truly incapable of providing certain courses, especially practical courses. Students will be informed about these changes before February 1. Universities will still be able to make exceptions for individual students who get into a tight spot, as was always the case.

A good beginning
Student organisation ISO is happy with the leniency for students: “The universities are showing that this is not a normal year”, says chair Dahran Çoban. She’s pleased that institutions have listened to earlier calls for action.

The Dutch Student Union also calls this more lenient approach “a good beginning”. Chair Lyle Muns would be happier to see the BSA done away with altogether, "but, for the time being, this relaxation of the requirements at least takes some of the pressure off”.

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