Dutch adopt tiered degrees

December 8, 2000

The Netherlands is to introduce the "Bama", or Anglo-Saxon degree system.

From the start of the academic year 2002, graduates will be able to adopt the title of "bachelor" or "master" in addition to the traditional Dutch "doctorandus".

The move, announced by the Dutch government, is a step towards the harmonisation of higher education across the European Union. Twenty-nine countries signed the Bologna Agreement in June 1999, pledging to adapt their degree structures to a single European system.

Dutch students will have to study for three years and attain a certain number of study points in order to gain a bachelors degree.

The reaction to the proposed changes has been largely positive. As the new degree titles are recognised around the world, Dutch universities will be more competitive on an international level.

Dini Hogenelst, of Leiden University, which already offers a number of masters programmes in English for international students, welcomed the news.

"Leiden University sees the Bama-model as an excellent opportunity to increase its international character. Students from overseas will be able to choose from a growing variety of study programmes, and Dutch students who possess their bachelors degree can very easily follow study programmes overseas," she said.

Higher education colleges are less happy, however. Education minister Loek Hermans has said that although Dutch colleges will also be able to offer masters degrees, only universities will be financed by the government.

The minister said that a bachelors degree from a university will be regarded as the first level of a masters degree. With colleges, a bachelors degree will be the logical end to three years' study, he said, so college students are more likely to enter the job market at this point.

Titles, too, will differ. While bachelors of arts and science will graduate exclusively from the universities, colleges will have to introduce more appropriately vocational titles, such as bachelor of education.

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