[Column] Cum Laude

Should TU Delft scrap the cum laude ruling as the Free University of Amsterdam will do next year? Bas Rooijakkers does not believe it will reduce achievement-related stress.

Bas Rooijakkers: “Until a new Cabinet takes office, I’m holding my breath.” (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

The cum laude ruling is being officially abolished (in Dutch) at the Free University of Amsterdam. Students taking their master’s in medicine there will not receive a separate qualification if they obtain good scores. Scores were abolished anyway last year for the master’s in medicine at the Free University. According to the head of department, the cum laude ruling placed too much emphasis on performance instead of on really learning. The ISO (Intercity Student Consultation) supports this decision. Research shows that many students who experience high pressure to perform get psychological problems and that ‘Scores do not by definition make the best doctors’. But do high scores make the best engineers? I believe they do.

Depending on your faculty, the cum laude percentge of your master’s is around 10%. I have seen myself that the students who pass a module with a score of eight or more, understand the material a lot better than I do. In my course, most tests are done through exams. Almost every exam is designed with basic questions that most people understand and a couple of analytical questions that only the clever ones will understand. To my mind, the students who put in a lot of effort to understand the material to such an extent that they can answer the difficult questions, should be singled out and given a bunch of flowers when they graduate.

It is mostly the international students that are anxious to graduate cum laude

But would this remove the achievement-related stress? For me, and presumably for many other students, it is stressful enough just passing most subjects. Maybe the exams should be easier. That would certainly reduce the stress. For other good ideas, the Executive Board is welcome to call me. But for the 10% that strive to get an average of at least eight, the stress will reduce, though I do think that these students want to distinguish themselves from the rest. If this is taken away, they will find another way to stand out such as an Honours programme, serving on a board for a year or a Dream Team. Just imagine, 10% of the students may suddenly become passionate about doing voluntary work if the cum laude ruling disappears.

Another reason for the cum laude ruling to be abolished is to turn the excelling individual into someone who wants to learn and collaborate. This will not apply that much to TU Delft though. It is a rarity here that students need to fight each other to get an internship or thesis subject, while at the Free University, everyone wants to do fellowships at the best places.

According to Rob Mudde, it is mostly the international students that are anxious to graduate cum laude. Many Dutch students are more interested in extracurricular activities. Why is this? I think money plays a significant role as international students pay a lot to study here. I also think that Dutch people see that scores do not make that much of a difference and that you will still get a job somewhere. There is still a shortage of engineers in the Netherlands, and some employers still prefer to hire Dutch speaking people.

In short, I do not think that abolishing the cum laude would make that much of an impact here, so as far as I am concerned, it can stay.

Bas Rooijakkers is a master’s student in Applied Physics. He was born in Brabant and spent part of his youth on Curaçao. He enjoys jogging and since the corona pandemic has also picked up cycling. He is also always in for a coffee or a craft beer.

Bas Rooijakkers / Columnist

Columnist Bas Rooijakkers

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