INTRODUCTION OF THE BACHELOR S-MASTER S SYSTEM IN HIGHER EDUCATION Summary

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1 Nassaulaan JS The hague Telephone +31 (0) Fax +31 (0) INTRODUCTION OF THE BACHELOR S-MASTER S SYSTEM IN HIGHER EDUCATION Summary

2 The Education Council is an independent advisory body, set up by the act of 15 may 1997 (the Education Council act). The council advises, whether requested to or not, on the main features of the policy and legislation in the field of education. The council advises the ministers of Education, Sciences and Cultural Affairs and of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries. The upper and lower chambers of the states general can also request recommendations from the council. Local authorities can, in special cases of local education policy, call on the services of the Education Council. The council consists of nineteen members who are appointed in a private capacity. Education Council Nassaulaan JS The Hague tel +31 (0) fax +31 (0) SUMMARY Introduction of the Bachelor s-master s system into Higher Education Recommendations of the Education Council issued to the Minister of Education, Sciences and Cultural Affairs, dated 5 July Order number /528.

3 INTRODUCTION OF THE BACHELOR S-MASTER S SYSTEM IN HIGHER EDUCATION Summary On 5 July 2000, the Education Council offered its recommendations relating to the Introduction of the Bachelor s-master s system in Higher Education to minister Hermans of Education, Cultural Affairs and Sciences. The minister had asked the Council to advise on the consequences for the Netherlands of a development within Europe towards a Higher Education structure involving two cycles. The recommendations were drawn up by a commission chaired by Dr A.H.G. Rinnooy Kan. The commission had been composed in such a way that the consequences of the introduction of the structure referred to could be analysed from a wide social perspective. The Education Council accepted all of the commission s recommendations. With regard to the introduction of a Bachelor s-master s system, the recommendations took as points of departure the individual responsibility of the institutions, the dynamism which has already been displayed in the education world with regard to the idea, and a government which broadly monitors the process. It is also the case that the international context in which Dutch Higher Education operates imposes restrictions on the scope of the national legislation and regulations. That is why it is recommended that new legislation and regulations be limited to a minimum, thereby offering the institutions maximum freedom for their own personal interpretations. The binary structure of Dutch Higher Education 1 is the point of departure for the proposed changes. The aim of the recommendations was not, therefore, to initiate a discussion of the system. The recommendations concern the Bachelor s phase, the Master s phase, flexibility and selectivity, degrees and titles, accreditation and the introductory strategy. Bachelor With regard to university education for the Bachelor s phase, it is advised that the kandidaats [first cycle] degree be designated a Bachelor s degree with a minimum course of study of 126 course credits 2. This would then function as an interim degree. The Bachelor s degree is not to be regarded as a definitive leaving level but as a moment at which the student makes a choice with regard to his further education in the Master s phase. Nevertheless, a student can also choose to enter the employment market. That, of course, has implications for the structure of the Bachelor s phase and for the link between the Bachelor s degree and the Master s phase. The arrangement of the two phases will therefore also provide an opportunity to transfer to a different institution after the Bachelor s degree has been acquired and will create a link with educational programmes abroad. One condition for this flexibility and international recognition is, however, that criteria for the content and the level of the courses in both phases are recorded in one system of accreditation. In addition, when the Bachelor s degree is introduced into university education, part of the funding will have to be related to the output at bachelor level. Moreover, the Student Financing Act will have to be adapted in order to prevent university students from losing the right to student financing after acquiring Bachelor s degrees. 1 Higher Education in the Netherlands can be divided into two categories: higher professional education (HBO), taught at hogescholen, university education (WO), taught, as its name suggests, at universities. 2 Students have to accumulate credits to obtain a diploma; one course credit includes 40 credit hours. 1

4 With regard to the higher professional education, it is recommended that, following on from the current situation, the four year cycle certificate be replaced by the professional bachelor degree so that the higher professional education institutions are designated as institutions which award degrees. This professional bachelor degree would therefore be a final degree. Master s According to the recommendations, in the context of university education and in line with current developments in, among others, science courses, differentiation is expected in the Master s phase between more vocational and research-oriented variants, which both link up with the Bachelor s degree phase. In the case of the first category, the Master s degree is, in principle, a final degree while, in the case of the second, it functions as an interim step on the way to a doctoral degree. This differentiation can also have consequences for the duration of the Master s phase. It is being proposed that these be recorded in the form of course credits as a criterion for accreditation. It is recommended that the basis should be the difference between the current course duration in course credits less the number of course credits in the undergraduate phase. The minimum duration is therefore 42 course credits. Of course it is conceivable that, in connection with a specific substance of a course or variant, an institution will decide to extend the latter without this automatically having consequences for government funding. Moreover, the institution should itself ensure that supplementary student financing is provided so that students continue to receive financing for the entire nominal course duration. Specific circumstances may however arise, independently of the above, which prompt the minister to consider supplementary provisions within the framework of funding and student financing. With regard to higher professional education, it is recommended that (as a supplement to the courses for which such a phase already exists, such as art courses, the advanced building courses and the grade one teaching courses) a graduate phase be made possible in higher professional education which results in the Master s degree. After all, there is a clear need for applied follow-up courses at Master s level and it is an urgent necessity for these courses to be placed within a formal statutory framework so that quality care and assessment and legal recognition of degrees are possible within the Dutch context. According to the recommendations there is also no cause at the moment to fund the Master s courses in higher professional education, except the current advanced courses in higher professional education (such as, for example, in art education, grade one teaching courses, etc.). However, it applies in this case too that it is conceivable that circumstances might arise which could give the minister cause to initiate funding for specific courses. Institutions can submit proposals for Master s courses. However, accreditation will, from the outset, be a condition for the provision of courses which are to be concluded with a legally recognised Master s degree. Flexibility and selectivity As indicated above, increasing the flexibility of Higher Education is an important objective being pursued through, among other things, the introduction of a Bachelor s-master s structure. As far as admission to the Master s phase is concerned, the recommendations generally state that this cannot be automatic. The institutions themselves bear the responsibility for assessing the candidates. In university education, the situation is somewhat more subtle than in higher professional education because the Bachelor s degree is an interim degree in university education. That is why there has to be clarity during the Bachelor s degree phase regarding the requirements imposed on admission to the Master s phase. Moreover, every Bachelor s degree that the university awards should, in principle, 2

5 guarantee the possibility of pursuing follow-up studies at the same institution or elsewhere. What is more, the institution has a serious care obligation with regard to its students in order for this possibility to become a reality. In higher professional education the Bachelor s degree is indeed a final degree. However here too, a Bachelor s degree gained at the same institution should, in principle, guarantee admission to a Master s degree course, provided the institution offers a Master s course in the specialist subject in question. In a lot of cases, however, additional requirements with regard to work experience are, with good reason, imposed. In accordance with the current situation it is being proposed that, in the new situation, selection will be carried out when students are admitted to a doctoral degree course. Candidates can only be admitted on the basis of a Master s degree, whereby the current doctoral right of those graduating from higher professional education will cease to exist. Candidates will only be able to qualify for admission to the doctoral degree course via a Master s course, whereby the recipient institution will be responsible and authorised to assess the candidates. Degrees and titles The recommendations emphasise the difference between Bachelor s and Master s courses in higher professional education and university education, which difference also has to be expressed in the titles. This difference concerns the applied nature of the higher professional education courses in comparison to the academic-scientific nature of university education courses. This links up with the requirements which the Higher Education Act (WHW) imposes on both types of courses. A consequence of this is that, in the new situation, the university education courses will also devote sufficient time (for example a year) on teaching how to carry out scientific research. In the case of university education, it is proposed that the following academic degrees be reserved for the universities and that they are also protected by law: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.), Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Science (M.Sc.), Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) and Philosophical Doctor (Ph.D.) Higher professional education institutions will, in the new situation, award professional Bachelor s and professional Master s degrees which will also have to be protected by law. The preferred approach would be to indicate the professional character of the course by an addition to the title which refers to the specialist area, for example Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) and Master of Engineering (M.Eng.). In the case of both higher professional education and university education it is proposed that the possibility be maintained of using the corresponding Dutch titles on the basis of these degrees. Accreditation As mentioned above, considerable value is attached to accreditation as an instrument for guaranteeing the quality of the content and level of the courses. In addition, accreditation facilitates international comparisons and recognition. The proposal is for a single body to be set up with separate departments for university education and higher professional education. With regard to the drawing up of criteria and procedures, research into the international situation is recommended. It is proposed that a reticent approach is taken with regard to the statutory recording of 3

6 the criteria in connection with the necessity of acquiring experience and in view of the dynamism within and between the Higher Education sectors. Accreditation is a necessary condition for the right to grant legally recognised degrees. That also applies to funding, albeit that the relevant decision has to be taken by government, which also has responsibility for the macro-appropriateness of the total provision of courses. In order to avoid confusion, this responsibility should be kept separate from the supervision of quality. Introductory strategy Although one can rely to a considerable degree on the dynamism of, and the interaction between, the institutions for the introduction van a Bachelor s-master s system, there needs to be clarity with regard to a deadline by which introduction can be achieved. Assuming the introduction of an accreditation system at the latest by 1 January 2002 and the introduction of a Bachelor s-master s structure two years later, the point of departure is a total maximum period of time of four years. In order to give institutions the opportunity of continuing or implementing the introduction in a dynamic manner, it is proposed, as far as the inclusion of the Bachelor s degree courses in university education in the Central Register of Higher Education Courses (CROHO) is concerned, that a generic measure be taken in order for the institutions to avoid having to deal with lengthy procedures Recommendations issued by the Education Council can be viewed and downloaded from the website: Review copies can be requested by telephone from mrs. B.C.M. Nout (information officer), tel +31 (0) , or by 4

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