The Strategic Agenda for Higher Education (only available in Dutch) was launched in 2015. In the coming years, the government will invest in higher education and maintain its focus on preventing course dropout and course switching, and encouraging students to graduate on time. All this will serve to improve course completion rates. Specifically, policy is aimed at further improving the match between prospective students and their choice of course, strengthening cooperation with secondary schools and schools for secondary vocational education, setting minimum course credit requirements for first-year students, devoting attention to students’ various talents, and providing more individual learning and guidance through tutoring and mentoring. More attention will also be devoted to extracurricular development.
Teaching will be on a smaller scale and more intensive.
Science and Technology Forum
The Science and Technology Forum (Platform Bèta Techniek) was set up by the government in 2004 to increase the number of young people entering the job market with good qualifications in science and technology, including higher education degrees. It is also responsible for bringing together authoritative expertise from the worlds of business, education and research and acting as ambassador for the government’s Delta Plan, which is designed to prevent a shortage of knowledge workers, especially in science and technology.
Over the years, the Science and Technology Forum has developed a unique strategy, with six ‘routes to success’. The strategy is characterised by the following main features:
- Educational institutions are always key.
- The institutions decide on their own ambitions together. The Forum supports them in achieving these ambitions.
- Where necessary, institutions are provided with relevant knowledge and expertise. At local or project level, the Forum brings relevant parties together or proposes possible contacts.
- To achieve these ambitions, institutions and the Forum make performance agreements. Progress is assessed during peer supervision sessions through exchange of knowledge and experience. Problems are discussed, and solutions proposed, always together with the institution in question.
The Forum works with a ‘knock-on’ approach, investing across the board from primary to higher education. By sowing the seeds in primary schools, the Forum hopes to increase the potential harvest of scientists and engineers. The labour market is an indispensable actor, and is involved in all programmes.
For more information, go to: Platform Bèta Techniek
The Forum is also actively involved in the national Technology Pact 2020, (only available in Dutch) which was concluded on 13 May 2013. The pact brings together educational institutions, employers and employees, the leading economic sectors, students, and regional and central authorities. It aims to increase the number of scientists and engineers and make education more relevant to the world of work.
Three principles underpin the Technology Pact:
- Implementation within sectors and regions is key to success. The pact contains national agreements to support regions and sectors in achieving their own goals.
- Cooperation between businesses, schools and universities is the key to appealing science teaching that connects seamlessly with the world of work. The business community, the social partners, the education sector (both public and private) and learners, and regional and central authorities all have their own contribution to make to the Technology Pact.
- Science teaching across the board forms the basis for a healthy job market for scientists and engineers. The pact targets primary, secondary, vocational and higher education as well as training courses for people in employment.
The number of science and engineering courses at bachelor level in higher professional education (HBO) will be reduced from 65 to around 25 broad categories, making them more transparent for the job market. HBO institutions will harmonise their science and engineering courses, and will work more closely together with the business community. The nine leading economic sectors will offer 1,000 scholarships a year for students enrolled in science and engineering courses at HBO institutions or universities, with a view to increasing and improving the intake of talented students from the Netherlands and abroad.
Under the 2011-2016 physics and chemistry sector plan, the government makes an annual investment in universities’ physics and chemistry faculties. The plan aims to improve academic teaching of science subjects – physics and chemistry in particular – in order to strengthen the entire science and technology sector in the Netherlands. The three Universities of Technology – Delft, Twente and Eindhoven – have agreed their own 3TU sector plan on recruiting and providing top-quality education for students – tomorrow’s engineers, industrial designers and researchers.
Dutch higher education legislation does not require institutions to offer students psychological counselling. However, many institutions for higher education employ psychologists to support students who encounter problems with their studies or in their personal lives. These psychologists have the knowledge and expertise to assess the impact of specific psychological problems on students’ performance and to offer appropriate interventions.
The psychologists are generally part of a more comprehensive student services department. They liaise with lecturers, tutors, mentors, advisers and counsellors, and may act as primary or secondary care providers. In the first case, students seek help directly, in the second they are referred by a counsellor or adviser. Psychologists may also refer students to a mental health service or other care provider if more specialised treatment is needed.
The problems leading students to seek help fall within four categories, which may overlap:
- Choice of course and learning-related problems: problems with motivation and concentration, procrastination, fear of failure, test anxiety, and doubts about choice of course.
- Stage of development (young adults) and student life: problems with letting go of parents, and with identity, social skills and relationships.
- Psychological problems: anxiety, depression, bereavement and eating disorders.
- Functional disorders: dyslexia, autism, ADHD, etc.
Study choice test
Students must register for the course of their choice on the Studielink website by 1 May at the latest. They will then be entitled to sit the study choice test, which assesses their suitability for the course. First-time students have until 1 September to change their choice of course. The aim of the test is to reduce course dropout and switching of courses, so that students graduate faster. HBO institutions and universities also have a role to play, for example, by responding more adequately to the needs of both students and the job market.
As of 2014 higher education institutions may make the study choice test compulsory for prospective students. Conversely, they are obliged to offer such a test if requested by students. The form the test takes depends on the HBO institution or university in question, but it may involve an interview with a lecturer, an online questionnaire or compulsory attendance at lectures for a day.
In order to make an informed choice, prospective students may:
- do a careers or interests test, for instance on Studiekeuze123.nl (only available in Dutch;
- read and compare the information provided on Studiekeuze123.nl on higher education courses;
- go to the open days organised by universities and HBO institutions;
- attend lectures for a day.
Students in higher education receive guidance from their tutor or adviser. During personal interviews tutors advise their students on how and what to study, and provide individual counselling. Unlike at universities, career guidance is usually compulsory at HBO institutions. Many higher education institutions also have counsellors/advisers who provide individual guidance and may act as independent, confidential advisers.