Binding Study Advice

Dutch universities use the binding study advice (BSA) to select students after their first year. According to the BSA-rules, students that meet a norm for credit points are allowed to enter the second year of their course program. Students that do not meet this norm are dismissed from their course program. The BSA-norm differs between universities, ranging from 15 credit points to the maximum of 60 credit points.

Around the time that BSA was introduced, a simulation study was carried out. Gijbels, Van der Rijt, en Van de Watering (2004) applied the BSA norm fictively on a cohort of students to investigate whether the BSA-norm .is a good predictor for study success. A BSA-norm of 30 credit points seemed to identify a group of successful students.  Students that earned at least 30 credit points in the first year of their study, earned more credit point in their second year compared to students that earned less than 30 credit points in their first year.

De Koning and others (2013) studied differences in study behaviors between cohorts of students before and after the introduction of the BSA. They concluded that the introduction of the BSA did influence students’ study behavior. Tutors rated students’ preparation for and students’ participation in group discussions (i.e. observed learning activities) higher after the BSA had been introduced. They also found that students did not spend more time on self-study after the introduction of the BSA. It seems likely that these students have used their self-study time more efficiently, than students did before the introduction of BSA.

The academic dismissal policies can help in bringing student dropout forward in time, by significantly increasing both first-year dropout rates and completion rates of first-year survivors (Arnold, 2014). However, the implementation of academic dismissal policies in Dutch university education has not had a strong positive effect on overall completion rates, when measured from the start to a cut-off date four years later. Despite the increase in first-year dropout rates, the academic dismissal policies do not solve the problem of student dropout.

A study of Sneyers and De Witte (2015) suggests that the implementation of a BSA-policy results in a higher first-year dropout rate and a higher student graduation rate. The results also indicate that, on average, student satisfaction decreases due to the introduction of a BSA-policy, while student satisfaction regarding program feasibility increases when a BSA-policy is employed.

After increasing the BSA-norm, first from 30 to 40 credit points and later from 40 to 45 credit points, students of Leiden University earn more credit points while drop-out rates remain the same (Vooijs, Van de Ven & Buitendijk, 2015). Students seem to adopt their study behaviors to the BSA-norm.

The studies lead to the tentative conclusion that students after the introduction of the BSA students tend to spend more time on study activities and earn more credit points in their first year than students did before the introduction of BSA. Overall, the amount of students that drop-out  a study program is not less than before the introduction of BSA, but the drop out is earlier in the course program.



Arnold, I.J.M. (2014). The effectiveness of academic dismissal policies in Dutch university education: an empirical investigation. Studies in Higher Education, 40  (6), 1068-1084.

De Koning, B.B., S.M.M. Loyens, R.M.J.P. Rikers, G. Smeets, and H.T. van der Molen. 2013. Impact of binding study advice on study behavior and pre-university education qualification factors in a problem-based psychology bachelor program, Studies in Higher Education, 39 (5), 835-847.

Gijbels, D., J. van der Rijt, and G. van de Watering. 2004. Het bindend studieadvies in het hoger wetenschappelijk onderwijs: worden de juiste mensen geselecteerd? [The binding study advice in higher scientific education: Are the right students being selected?]. Tijdschrift voor Hoger Onderwijs 22: 62–72.

Sneyers, E. & De Witte, K. (2015): The effect of an academic dismissal policy on dropout, graduation rates and student satisfaction. Evidence from the Netherlands, Studies in Higher Education,  DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2015.1049143

Vooijs, M., Van de Ven, M.. & Buitendijk, S. (2015).  Strengheid werkt. Eerste resultaten van het aangescheprt bindend studieadvies in Leiden. [Sternness works. First results of a stricter binding study advice in Leiden}. Thema, 2, 35-38.