[Column] Double bad luck

There should never be a strict bachelor-before-master demand again, says columnist Bas Rooijakkers. This would only bring more problems to the ‘bad luck generation’.

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

The Covid pandemic not only pushed the healthcare sector into a crisis, but also caused an education crisis. Pupils in primary and secondary schools appear to have a significant gap in their learning and a lot of students at university are facing study delays. It is worrying and the Government has come up with some options to help pupils and students. Pupils at secondary school, for example, are being given more final exam chances. University students are being given less stringent binding study advice and the ‘zachte knip’ ruling – a lenient bachelor-before-master requirement which basically means that they can move on to their master’s even if they have not quite yet finished their bachelor’s. These measures are temporary and are very likely to be revoked after the pandemic. I may agree that most of the measures should be revoked, but I do believe that the lenient ruling should stay.

I myself benefited from it. I could start working on my master’s while I still had 15 credits to earn for my bachelor’s. I had to resit two subjects this year, the blame for which I give to Covid and not to my poor study habits or intellectual ability. The lenient ruling means that I am now on track in my master’s. If we had had the strict bachelor-before-master demand (harde knip in Dutch), in which you have to finish your bachelor’s before moving on to your master’s, it would have meant that I would have had to do something else for a year and would still have needed to do those two subjects. It would have meant an additional year of loans.

‘Only a bachelor’s degree is of no use’

Since the introduction of the student loan system, fewer students continue to a master’s study after obtaining their bachelor’s (in Dutch). The percentage has dropped from 85 to 70%. I do not know the figures, but I think that the percentage at TU Delft is still high (for more information check the text box below, Ed.). After all, only a bachelor’s degree is of no use; everyone goes on to do a master’s. About two-thirds of the new first years obtain their bachelor’s degree (in Dutch) within four years at TU Delft. Of the rest, 10% stops studying and a little less than one quarter takes more than four years. In the end, many of these students will go on to do a master’s. The lenient bachelor-before-master ruling is helping everyone avoid even more study delays.

Keeping it is not a crazy idea as the strict bachelor-before-master demand was only rolled out across the country in 2012. The reason for it was that it appeared that a lot of students simply continued studying on ‘automatic pilot’, doing their master’s at their familiar faculty. If they still had to earn a couple of credits from their bachelor’s, it was all right. At the time, the Cabinet did not believe this to be a good thing as they believed that the students chose the path of least resistance and not the degree programme that best suited them.

In a previous column I wrote about the unlucky students, of which I am one. A Cabinet decision may make us even more ‘unlucky’. Rumour has it that the interest on borrowed money will go up to 1.5% in January. This is why I would like to reopen the discussion around the strict bachelor-before-master demand, not only during Covid pandemics, but also in terms of finances. By reintroducing the strict demand, students can incur a year’s delay and this could cost some students an extra EUR 12,000 in loans. Should you have to pay it back over a 30 year period at a 1.5% interest rate, you would need deep pockets. And just because in 2012 the Cabinet thought that you needed to think more carefully about your choice of study.

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.

Text box on flow-through rate

Delta looked in TU Delft’s ‘business intelligence and reporting software’ Tableau to find out what percentage of TU bachelor’s students go on to a master’s program at TU Delft. These flow-through rates are not in Tableau, at least not in part to which the editors have access.

So we took the two pre-Covid years 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 to obtain a global percentage. Global, because students who receive a TU Delft bachelor’s degree one year will not all immediately move on to a TU Delft master’s program. If we do compare both academic years, this picture emerges:

  • In academic year 2017-2018, 2476 TU Delft students received their bachelor’s degree.
  • In academic year 2018-2019 (measurement moment Dec 2018), 2040 students with a TU Delft bachelor’s degree started a TU Delft master’s program.
  • The pass-through rate will then be 82.4 percent.

Bas Rooijakkers / Columnist

Columnist Bas Rooijakkers

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