Binding study advice


Most institutions use a binding study advice (BSA) for students. This is an important tool that virtually all students in higher education have to deal with. The Higher Education and Research Act states that students must be given such an advice at the end of their first year. Nowhere, however, does it state that this must be a binding requirement.

Throughout the years, the BSA standard has been raised and the advice has become more strict. In recent years, there has been much debate surrounding the BSA. Recently, this debate was represented in the Westerveld motion, a request to replace the BSA with a non-binding recommendation. According to the ISO, the BSA is not an effective instrument to get the right student in the right place.

Current affairs

ISO is of the opinion that the binding study advice does not sufficiently achieve its original objective of ensuring that every student gets into the right programme. ISO comes to this conclusion on the basis of three objections:

First of all, the BSA contributes to unnecessary performance pressure among first-year students, which does not give them a chance to get used to a programme.

Secondly, the BSA leads to an unnecessary “pumping around” of students: when a negative BSA is received, a large percentage of students will go on to follow the same programme at another institution. This only leads to a less efficient educational pathway, increasing rather than decreasing the institutional cost per student.

Finally, ISO sees that some programmes use the BSA as a means to select students post-admission. ISO does not believe this is the intention, as ISO believes that selection should take place through transparent, pre-approved methods.

Viewpoint of the ISO

We are striving to organise the study advice differently. We are not by definition opposed to setting a standard: this offers first-year students a clear goal and can have a motivating effect. However, if it turns out that a student will not meet the standard, this should not automatically lead to the unilateral rejection of the student. We think it should be a conversation between student and institution. In our opinion, three alternatives are suitable for this:

  1. The B from BSA: Students do receive a study advice, but with a negative advice a student may continue the study. In this way, it is truly an advice and the choice remains with the student.
  2. Qualitative standards: No advice based on the number of ECTS, but based on individual (learning) goals that the student sets for himself at the beginning of the year.
  3. Transfer norm: First-year students who remain below the norm do not have to leave the programme. They will be facilitated and supported through individual counselling and with flexibility of the curriculum to obtain the required ECTS, after which they can start their second year.

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