Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden University modifies BSA regulation for the first year and ends experiment with second year

Leiden University is ending the experiment with the Binding Study Advice in the second year of the bachelor's programme (BSA 2) with immediate effect. Under the terms of BSA 2, students were required to obtain 90 credits within two years, including their first-year diploma.

The experiment has been ended due to a recent decision by the  Appeals Tribunal for Higher Education (CBHO). The present University Council was also opposed to the experiment.  Leiden University does not wish to leave its students in any uncertainty and is therefore announcing that the BSA for the first year of study (BSA 1) will remain in place, but will be modified. The requirement for the first-year diploma to be obtained within two years no longer applies.

BSA 1 and BSA 2

The BSA in the first year will continue largely in its present form: students have to obtain a minimum of 45 credits in the first year of their programme in order to be allowed to continue to study their chosen programme at Leiden University. Part-time students have to obtain at least 30 credits in their first year. In addition, part-time and full-time students are also required to meet any additional first-year requirements imposed by their bachelor’s programme, as set out in the relevant Course and Examination Regulation. The requirement that a (full-time) student also has to obtain his or her first-year diploma at the end of the second year of study no longer applies. Students are no longer required to obtain 90 credits by the end of their second year in order to be able to continue with their programme.

Informing students

All students who have been involved in the BSA experiment in the second year will be informed of this decision today by email; these changes will also be confirmed in a letter later this week.

Decision by CBHO and signal from the University Council

The CBHO has  reached some important decisions on issues relating to the BSA. The Appeals Tribunal has stated – in brief – that during the first-year (propaedeutic) phase the university may provide a student with a binding study advice on one occasion only, not on two occasions. The university has to modify its BSA regulation as a result of this decision.  Although the scope of the decision is not yet clear, the university does not wish to wait for further legal decisions, but would rather make the situation clear to its current and prospective students as soon as possible. A further consideration is that the University Council also has some doubts about the experiment in the second year. The Executive Board would also like to respond to this signal. The University Council believes there are many disadvantages to BSA 2, such as increased work pressure for faculties, more bureaucracy and greater stress among students. The Executive Board has therefore decided to halt the experiment with the second year with immediate effect.

Participation in the experiment

BSA 1 has been in place in Leiden since 1997. The regulation is intended to ensure that students are in the programme that is best suited to them as early as possible, to encourage them to take their studies seriously from the very outset, and to ensure that they complete their programme in the nominal time. The trial with BSA 2 is an experiment and the university’s participation in the experiment was due to continue until 2018, following agreement with Minister Bussemaker of  OCW, and  would then be evaluated in the House of Representatives. The experiment was one aspect of the performance agreements made between OCW and the Dutch universities. As part of these agreements, the Minister asked universities to see that their students studied at the nominal rate so that they would obtain their bachelor’s degree within four years.

Positive effects of BSA 2

The university has taken part in the experiment in order to help students continue to study effectively in their second year as well as in the first. This would then give more scope in later years for other activities, such as a study period abroad, an extra minor or additional optional subjects, or for extra-curricular activities such as engaging in committee work.  An initial study carried out by the university has shown that BSA 2 seems to be effective for many students. The percentage of students who earned more than 90 credits after two years increased and students obtained on average more credits than under the old regulation.

Leiden Study System to continue

As well as placing extra demands on its students in the first two years, Leiden University also  provided a number of benefits in return. At the start of the experiment it was agreed with the representative bodies that students would receive additional support with their studies. They are offered more lecture hours, mentor groups and study progress interviews, and in their second year they make a study plan together with a mentor. These extra facilities will continue even though the university’s participation in the experiment  has ended. The Executive Board will discuss with the representative bodies, lecturers and students, and the Faculty Board possible additional facilities to help students maintain their study progress after the first year.

‘We are ending the experiment’

Rector Carel Stolker commented on this decision: ‘The Executive Board and the faculties have no option but to abide by the decision of the CBHO. We believe the decision is unclear on some points, in particular regarding the consequences for the experiment, but we do not want to leave our students in any uncertainty.  There is also the fact that our University Council has serious doubts about the experiment with BSA 2, and we have listened carefully to these doubts. We have for these reasons decided to stop the experiment and to make some changes to BSA 1. We will be holding further discussions with our lecturers and students to seek possible alternatives for the second year.’

Binding Study Advice (BSA)

The BSA regulation at Leiden University distinguishes three groups of students:  full-time students, part-time students and students of exempted programmes. Each year carries 60 credits, making a total of 180 credits for the complete bachelor’s programme.  

According to the BSA regulation, full-time students in the first year of their programme have to obtain at least 45 credits (BSA 1) and 90 credits in the second year (BSA 2), and they have to obtain their first-year diploma (propedeuse) within two years (BSA 1 and 2). Until 23 May 2016 students were able to follow the programme only if they meet all of these requirements. In addition to these requirements, individual programmes may impose additional criteria that are set out in the Course and Examination Regulation.

Part-time students have to obtain at least 30 credits in the first year.

Students of exempted programmes – those programmes that are only offered at Leiden University – are subject to the BSA regulation for the first year of their programme (45 credits) but were exempted from the first-year diploma requirement and also from the BSA regulation for the second year (the experiment with BSA 2).