France Reshapes Bachelor Education
The French government presented a new
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Standardization and Diversification
Chief element of the new law is that a minimum number ofteaching hours will be set for every Bachelor education. Currently,French students experience great variations with arts, languagesand literature programs including as little as 1.200 teaching hourswhile ‘hard’ sciences, technology and health studies requireattendance of up to 1,745 teaching hours. Such consolidation ofstudy programs is also an essential goal of the BolognaProcess that introduced the European Credit TransferSystems (ECTS) with each European credit being worth 28 hours ofstudying.
In addition to setting these standards, France also aims atexpanding and personalizing study programs. This means first of allthat licence programs should be made more flexibleallowing students to change their specialization in case they chosethe wrong study track. By diversifying studycourses, public universities are to cater theinterests of their students. Currently, only grandes écolesguarantee high levels of student-focused higher education. Theseinstitutes, however, are extremely selective and teach only 5% ofthe French student population.
Excellence Means Grande École
Pécresse states that public universities would have to move from”selection by failure” to “success for all” in order to tackle theextremely low study success rates whichindicate that only about half of French students successfully passtheir first year while 90.000 students leave university without adegree every year. For those students that excel in their studies,programs of excellence should beimplemented offering double degrees and study courses preparing forthe entrance exams of the grandes écoles. Honours programs, whichare becoming more popular in the Netherlands, are not part ofthis debate as truly excellent students are expected to ultimatelyleave public universities and attend a grandeécole.
Graduate employability is also a vital concern ofthe new French higher education policy. Consequently, in thefuture, it will be obligatory for every Bachelor program to offerstudents the opportunity to do an internship or get work experienceduring their study. To test how well graduates from differentuniversities perform, benchmarks will beimplemented measuring a range of skills deemed important by theFrench government. These include: personal autonomy, capability toanalyze and summarize, computer and language know-how, disciplinarycompetence and employment-related knowledge.
Zijstra’s own Reforms
Halbe Zijstra, Dutch Minister for Higher Education, recentlypublished his own new policy paper outlining priorities foruniversities and hogescholen in the upcoming years. Issues such asdiversification of study courses were already an important part ofthe Veerman report. In his
The emphasis on more intensive ‘contact education’ is also desiredby Zijstra. Going so far as to implement a fixed minimum number ofteaching hours, nevertheless, is not part of future Dutch HEpolicy. Grandes Écoles with their elitism, likewise, are ratherstrange to the Dutch. Selectivity will be primarily seen as a formof matching, not as an instrument of explicit élite-development.Except of course in the Arts Schools.