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“How can you possibly get a zero?”

Matching and Binding at the Faculty of Law

Now that the results of the first two blocks and the first deregistrations have been processed, the Maastricht Faculty of Law may carefully draw the conclusion that the Matching and Binding project has been successful. But of course there is always a lesson to be learnt for next time; the system needs to be fine-tuned in some places.

Orange, Red and Green represent the three codes used in the Matching and Binding project introduced by the faculties of Arts and Sciences and Law this academic year. The aim was to check if there is a match between the study programme and new students. “It must be part of the preparation; school-leavers should know what they are getting into,” says Rina Vaatstra, educational advisor at the law faculty. On the other hand, the programme itself benefits when unmotivated students stay away.

Students who used Studielink to registered for a law study, automatically received one of three codes, after completing the compulsory online questionnaire. Green is okay, Orange and Red were doubtful. Vaatstra: “School-leaving grades, especially for Dutch, mathematics and English, are important. But also information about how someone studies and what he or she is planning to do alongside the study, are decisive factors.” 

For the studies of Dutch law, fiscal law and European Law School regular track, 241 potential students completed the questionnaire. Two thirds were allowed to continue without any problems; 30 per cent received an orange code and only 3 per cent a red one. The latter were invited for a talk – an advisory talk, because refusing prospective students is not possible and not allowed. Half of the orange category was interviewed; the rest received a serious warning e-mail. 259 students registered for the English track of European Law School. Nobody got a red code. The percentages of green and orange were 86 and 14 per cent, respectively.

“It may be a little soon, but we see a strong relation between the answers on the questionnaires - especially about self-study hours and study skills - and pass/fail rates at exams. You can see, for example, that those who thought that they could have a job working 30 to 40 hours each week, end up having problems during the first block.”

But the law faculty is not just handing out codes. Weaker students are monitored by means of a study tracking system. Anyone scoring a 5 for the first exam – regardless of whether the code was orange, green or red – is invited to take part in a study skills training course. With the emphasis on ‘invited’, because it is on a voluntary basis and Vaatstra knows that not all students make use of it. “Or they miss the invitation, think that the training group is full or that they do not need it.” The faculty refers students with a 4, a 3 and sometimes a 2 on to a mentor. “There were 46 students at Dutch law and 50 at the European Law School English track. But again: we cannot force them. What we do with final grades of 0 and 1? Nothing. It sounds harsh, but that is a waste of time and energy. How can you possibly get a 0?”

We have now reached 1 February, an important date for those who want to quit their studies halfway through the year, for whatever reason. There are about fifty of those at the Faculty of Law, but this number is not definitive. “The group includes quite a few students who started out with a red or orange code.”

Vaatstra feels that the Matching and Binding project was a success, but will be fine-tuned next year. “More students will be put in the orange category, I think. We can warn them or have them come in for a talk. We still see too many first-year students whom we have doubts about, those who stubbornly continue while they only receive failing grades. We will add a subject-specific case to the questionnaire, so that school-leavers get a better idea of what a law study is like. In addition, we will pay even more attention to study skills and study hours. ” Being too strict is pointless, according to Vaatstra. “We must take into account that some students have to acclimatise. It would be a shame not to give them a chance.”

 

Wendy Degens

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