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I'll have to excuse myself if my question sounds rant-like. I am desperate.

Back in 2013, I started my 4 year (240 ECTS) bachelor course. The course I went to was ranked the best in the country (of 20) at that time. There was a schedule of what classes we would get in what year, what choice we had, etc. I had to agree, it was a good university.

Fast-forward two years. I was studying in a different department to get my free-choice credits. I heard from friends from my main department that the course was being changed and that it was horrible. Apparently, the head of department wanted to implement some way of learning that is popular in France and Finland, where students pick what skills they want to learn now and learn that at their own pace. It sounds amazing in theory, but it went a little wrong in practice.

As students, we need to demonstrate that we have learned a certain competence to get ECTS now. For example, for 'Software Development 2', we need to show that we can and know when to implement certain programming concepts, like hash maps. Each student can fill a role in a project with a real client, for example the role of software architect. We would work together, as students of different years, in different roles. The department decides which role slots are available per project.

It does sound pretty awesome in practice and I was very enthusiastic when I started in 2016, even though some of my friends from different years were complaining. It turns out, they were right. It was horrible. It still is horrible. Yes, I had 1 year left to go in 2016, I am still trying to finish that year.

Clients were companies that usually could not afford an IT department and used us instead. There have been no lectures since the start of the new system in 2015. Communications about requirements are horrible. For example whole requirements are being left out of syllabi. Client and academic expectations do not align. For 'Software Development 2' I need to integrate a functional programming language and a object oriented one. The client wants an API written in PHP for a very specific task that leaves no room for a functional programming language.

I miss one small part of a 'class' from 2016, but the project has already finished. This means I cannot finish the class. I have asked for an alternative, but communications about that amount to "that's your problem". Actually, I have only been able to get 10 ECTS (1/6th of a year) over the past 2 years, while I have always been able to get my credits at in the same semester as I attended the class.

Coursemates are not much better off. The department scrapped the 30 ECTS requirement for first-years, because less than 10% had more than 30 ECTS. 60 ECTS in one year is normal. The course was best in the country up to the rankings of 2012, scoring 84 out of 100. Now it is scoring 30 out of 100, being the worst course in the country.

Some coursemates are considering sueing, but we do not want to ruin the value of our degrees even more. I want to drop out, as I am getting more and more depressed, but it makes me upset to drop out so close to getting my degree. I wanted to continue to get a masters degree. I was conditionally accepted into a really nice one.

We tried talking to just about everyone in the university. The department is trying to improve the course, so the university itself is letting this mess continue.

Basically: University (department) changed the course and made it go from best of the country to worst. University doesn't want to change anything. What can we do? Is there someone, some organisation outside of our university we can complain to?

Note: this is a hogeschool

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    The link to Wikipedia says "hogeschool is the generic term in German for institutions of higher education, corresponding to universities and colleges in English," so I'm not sure what you're trying to communicate with your note, except maybe that you're in a German-speaking country. – Stella Biderman Mar 21 '18 at 19:40
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    @StellaBiderman No, I believe she is saying that the 'hochschule' is the best known equivalent known beyond our tiny Dutch country. Also, be aware that although Dutch and German is similar, it is very different. Dutch is about as close to English as to German (it's something in the middle of both, really) – Discrete lizard Mar 21 '18 at 19:41
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    This, eh 'transformation of educational methods', for the lack of a better term, sounds very familiar to me. I think I know some people who did studied something IT-like at your school. Are you comfortable with sharing the city the school is located? – Discrete lizard Mar 21 '18 at 19:44
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    (perhaps a bit unrelated, but I may create a wikipedia page in the future that explains this educational structure in detail) – Discrete lizard Mar 21 '18 at 20:52
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    It seems really bizarre to me that a program would change its requirements for current students. Normally, isn't there a "grandfather clause", so that changes affect only incoming students -- returning students get to continue their same track. It makes the transition smoother for all (though may cause some overhead while transitioning). I wonder if somebody could suggest that your program do this. My condolences. This sounds so frustrating! – jvriesem Mar 21 '18 at 23:25
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First of all, I'm afraid that there is no legal wrongdoing on your schools end, although I think that you are feeling very betrayed and having received a great injustice. (But I'm not a lawyer, although I think this isn't the path you should try. The Netherlands doesn't have a big 'suing culture' and trying immediately this might make more people hostile than you'd want to.)

I also think that this is a normal feeling to have in your situation. However, I also think that you have to try and find some constructive manner to solve your problem, not try to get revenge and escalate things.

So, if you aren't already, calm down. Talk to some friends or family, explain and relax. Just drop the issue for a moment if you have to, I first want you to be calm before you continue reading. Oh and if you're having feelings of depression, get professional help. There are people from the GGZ (Dutch psychological health service) who can help you, no strings attached, immediately if nessecary. (outside of office hours, call your practitioner (=huisarts) or their 'huisartsenpost'. They'll know what to do) Try to be calm. Okay?


Good, I hope that you are now calm if you weren't already. I think that you should talk to people and calmly explain your problems. Try to give good arguments, but be sure that you don't come over as too angry. Try to make it sound like you understand the school position but nevertheless dislike the decision. (This can be a lie. It is a useful lie. To get people to listen, tell them what they want to hear. Try making them believe your on their side, even if you aren't.) A good argument would be the ratings (I believe those are from the national student monitor, yes?)

If you think there are still people at the university worth talking too, talk to them. If not, I have a list of other people you can consider worth talking too. It might be a good idea if there are faculty members agreeing with you that the program currently is 'ruined', so to speak to ask how they can help or for other advice.

So, who can or should you contact outside your school? A list of possibilities is the following:

  • 'education conflicts' This site seems exactly what you need. Try this one first.

  • The national ombudsman. Although these are mainly about government issues, the role of this institute is to assist citizens in mediating with potential issue with the government. I'm sure they can redirect you somewhere useful if they can't help you themselves

  • (WARNING: this choice may escalate matters, try others first!) If (and only if) the previous fail, you can consider taking the matter to local or national politics, asking questions to the Minister or the quality committee that should test the quality of all schools and hence prevent such awful incidents like this.

  • DO NOT TAKE LEGAL ACTION. Unless..., you have discussed this with any or all of the above instances and they think this may be a good idea. (Perhaps you want monetary compensation for being forced to prolong your studies as a result of this or for the money you paid the school for education of lesser quality than you have expected) If truly think this is a good idea and you do want to do this, try to organize it with as many people as possible, as this allows you to pool your resources (and increase the weight of your problems) to prepare better to face someone in court.

I hope you have some idea of what to do. Remember, stay calm and act cool. The Netherlands is a country of arguing and making concessions (i.e. 'polderen'), if you're willing to give something, others are likely willing to make concessions on their behalf. You want to avoid legal action, but it may be needed. But this is something that should be calmly thought about. Not rashly.

If you want to talk to someone about this topic, you can do so in chat (I will be available mostly until reasonable Dutch 'bedtimes')


Finally, I will give my opinion on why this whole mess could happen and what (in general) could (perhaps should) be done to prevent this. You may find this comforting. Feel free to quote me on this. (I will keep my pseudonymity, however)

First of all, if it works, don't fix it! Seriously! In my opinion, the entire Dutch education system has contracted a nasty disease. A sickly obsession to change everything every 5 years or so. This happens at all education levels. 'Oh what a great method from other countries that are rated so much better by rankings X and Y'

Second, if you really want to (socially) experiment, allow the experiment to fail. Really, there is no guarantee that stuff from other places works, you have to try it out first. Don't change your entire education system, change a single couse. Or even better, create an elective (i.e. free to choose) course that attracts enthusiastic students and be sure to have very close feedback to see what works and what fails. The educational systems are forced to do so much bullshit that is being dropped down from the idea-tanks above. (see the 'rekentoets', for a fairly recent example. Why make an additional exam if you don't make time or money for additional training? Why are people in education this stupid? I mean, you don't think people get more skilled because of a single test?)

Finally, it is a very bad idea to change something in current cohorts, as this breaks the trust and expectations of those students. This should become illegal if it isn't already. In my university, some parts have been radically changed. However, this was only implemented for new students, who were aware of the changes. Additionally, there was about a 4 year 'grace period' in which 'old courses' were still given and could be completed, for the students who like to take 7 years to complete their bachelors. This is fine. Even if the school messes up completely, the damage is minimal. The content can be immediately 'reverted', so to speak.

I like to finish with saying that I really feel sorry for your situation and truly hope this will end well for you and your fellow students. Although you may not like it now, it is ok to take a bit longer on your studies, as long as your doing something useful and something you enjoy. You'll be able to enter the job market if you are capable. You could even just drop out. No shame in that, but don't feel pressured to do so. In the end, what matters is that you make the right choices and do act on your emotions. Take care. As I said earlier, I'm willing to talk or listen in chat.

  • I think this is obvious, but for clarity: I am a Dutch student at a university in the Netherlands. I may therefore know a bit more about the Dutch education system than others on this site. Do feel free to come to me with questions regarding the Dutch education system in case you have any. – Discrete lizard Mar 21 '18 at 20:48

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