Rector in favour of master’s admissions procedure

The student parties don’t like the idea of selecting students for master’s degrees on the basis of their grades. However, Rector Magnificus Elmer Sterken is in favour of the procedure.

The student parties and the Intercity Student Consult (ISO) sent a warning letter on Wednesday to education minister Bussemaker, informing her that they would be putting a stop to the latest master’s admissions procedures if she would not do it herself. The parties allege that graduates do not have a chance on the labor market if they only have a bachelor’s degree. But the minister does not have a problem with rejecting students for master’s degrees if they have a grade point average (GPA) of 6. Rector Magnificus Elmer Sterken is also in favour of this procedure.

Officially, the university has not taken a standpoint regarding the situation, but Elmer Sterken has made his opinion clear: the RUG wants to be an international university, and abroad, it is extremely normal to set high standards. ‘We shouldn’t be looking at this from a Dutch perspective; we have to widen our field of vision. At a master’s level, you also compete with master’s degrees abroad, and I personally believe in competing with quality’, he says.

The university wants to improve the quality of master’s degrees to ensure that more students choose a degree in Groningen. ‘Is every student from the bachelor suitable for the master’s degree? Are they able to follow everything? We do not want to fill the relatively costly master’s degrees with people who are simply not good enough’, answers Sterken.

International market

He received approval from the personnel members in the University Council. ‘I think it’s good to use such an admissions procedure for master’s degrees. We don’t want to be known as an institution full of unwanted students who go to the university because they can’t get in anywhere else’, says Laurence Gormley from the Science Fraction. ‘We operate in an international market, especially with the English-taught degrees. We have to take this into account. In England, the minimum requirement is a GPA of a 7 on a scale of one to ten. Top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge require an 8 or 8.5’, he says.

Bachelor-before-Master rule

The bachelor-before-master rule is not in place for nothing, party colleague Olaf Scholten feels. ‘After a bachelor’s degree, you are deemed ready for society. The bachelor-before-master rule is in place. A much bigger problem is that many students go on to study their master’s degrees elsewhere. Maybe we aren’t selecting students on the basis of their grades enough. If we do select students, then we show others that we are a top university which takes master’s degrees seriously, and in doing so, we become more attractive as a university. You can use the admissions procedure as a way of letting the outside world know that we are good.’

The students understand the arguments, but are still worried that students with only a bachelor’s degree will not be able to find a job. ‘Abroad, you can find work with a bachelor’s degree, but that is not common practice here’, says Alexander van ‘t Hof from SOG.

That will change on its own, the personnel members think. ‘If you don’t use such an admissions procedure, an employer will always ask to see a list of grades attained. If you have a 6 on your list, they will also dismiss you’, Gormley thinks.


The students are going to engage in talks with the university association VSNU, and are waiting on a reply from minister Bussemaker. She is not very likely to change her mind. She previously made known that the master’s admissions procedure is completely in line with her policy, which is focused on ‘the continued profiling of programmes, more diversification in the choice of master’s programmes, the right students at the right place and a more informed choice of study’.


Photo: Flickr/Francisco Osorio