MAASTRICHT. From the next academic year, seven of the ten university bachelor’s programmes in Psychology will no longer have a numerus clausus. Maastricht University will maintain the restriction because of the huge number of applications and the wish to provide the small-scale education. The universities of Leiden and Groningen are still discussing the matter.
All ten institutes introduced student quotas in 2011, but in the last few years fewer students enrolled at most universities than the maximum numbers. This was not the case in Maastricht. The English bachelor’s programme that started this academic year, attracted more than a thousand prospective students, who took part in a decentralised selection process. This eventually resulted in 490 first-year students. “Our quota is actually 450,” says Tom Smeets, responsible for education. “But we send out more confirmations because there are always some who don’t turn up.” The number of students who stuck to their choice of Maastricht was larger than expected this year.
The programme can handle that number of students, but it does have to be creative. “Our lecture hall seats only 430. That is why we hired the MECC at the beginning of the year. In the meantime, some students have dropped out and not everyone shows up all the time, so it is no longer necessary.” Otherwise things are running smoothly. “We worked really hard last summer to acquire sufficient space and recruit tutors. But this is the maximum if you want to maintain small-scale education and quality.” That is why the institute will stick with the quota. “The risk of being overrun by students is too great. We now already have 30 per cent more applications than last year at this time.”
Chairperson Esther Crabbendam of the FNV-Jong union wonders if it is wise that so many universities are dropping the student quotas. “Graduate psychologists are finding it hard to get employment,” she says. “This situation is often abused. They end up with shady constructions or bumped-up work placements.”
In 2014, almost fifteen per cent of those who had recently graduated in the category ‘behaviour and society’ were unemployed. The figure comes from a labour market monitor by the Maastricht Research Centre for Education and Labour Market, which was published on Tuesday. Only graduates from language and cultural studies find it more difficult to find a job. Of the technical graduates, only 5.4 per cent are unemployed and for teachers the figure is 9 per cent.
Director of Education Henk Boer at the University of Twente feels that agreements on a national level to ensure that every graduate will have a job, are not a good idea. “For two reasons. Firstly, it interferes with the students’ freedom of choice. And secondly, you create a kind of cartel. You can see that happening in Medicine. An artificial scarcity is created, which can have all kinds of undesired effects.”
Smeets sees no reason to lower the numerus clausus in Maastricht. “Then you are just being more Catholic than the pope. It doesn’t help if other institutes don’t maintain it, students will just go elsewhere. Besides, we have an international classroom here, which improves job prospects, which - of all Social Sciences programmes- are still the best for Psychology graduates.”