Course gives Dutch dropouts direction

March 2, 2001

A scheme to help student dropouts structure their futures is increasing in popularity as its reputation spreads within the Netherlands.

The Hogeschool van Amsterdam (Amsterdam College) and the Universiteit van Amsterdam (Amsterdam University) are jointly running a reorientation programme for students who drop out in their first year of study. The course, from February to June, is designed to help students who have given up college or university after one term and who no longer receive a grant.

In the first year, 28 students signed up. This year the number has risen to 45. After the first year of running the reorientation programme, programme coordinator David Noordhoff said 90 per cent of students now feel that they have made the right choice in their studies.

The cost of the programme is €507 (£700) with a reduced rate of €253 (about £350) for students already at the Hogeschool. It begins with a personal assessment to help participants discover their strengths and weaknesses as well as their motivation to study. Students are also asked to think about what kind of career they want.

The programme organisers then design their education programme to help each student make an informed choice about which course to choose.

Mr Noordhoff said that most students go on to select a course more suited to their needs and abilities. Sometimes he advised them to take time out to travel or find a job so that they can gain a better perspective on academic life.

But whatever they do, his advice is: "Don't just sit on the couch and hope it'll work out OK by itself." Mr Noordhoff recommends that his pupils devote two days a week to the programme and three to a part-time job.

The idea for the scheme grew out of an orientation programme run by the Hogeschool and the Universiteit for school-leavers to help them decide which degree to take and where to study. Rather than stand by and see students discouraged from continuing studies after poor exam results, Mr Noordhoff and his staff offered potential dropouts advice and reorientation.

The course's combination of self-analysis and visits to different colleges and universities with the opportunity to sit in on lectures seems to be a successful one.

Janna de Waard went on last year's course after giving up health sciences in Maastricht. She said: "Because I saw that I was not the only one who did not choose the right study at once, I felt more confident. The tutors helped me see things I had never seen before. " Ms de Waard is now studying communications management at Diemen near Amsterdam.

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