Foto: Daniël Rommens

Van den Boom pleads for entry requirements in farewell speech

Willem van Ewijk,
11 januari 2017 - 16:10

Dutch lawmakers should consider introducing entry requirements for students wishing to enter university in order to maintain a high level of education as long as the government is reluctant to increase university's budgets, former rector-magnificus Dymph van den Boom said in her farewell speech on Monday.

Van den Boom, who served as rector magnificus at the Universiteit van Amsterdam between 2007 and 2016 gave her farewell address during the 385th dies natalis in the Oude Lutherse Kerk on Monday. Van den Boom has been succeeded by Karen Maex already since the summer but the farewell address is traditionally held at the dies natalis, the university’s birthday ceremony.


In her speech, Van den Boom charted the developments in Dutch higher education during the ten years she was the university’s chancellor as well as highlighting the challenges ahead. One of the biggest challenges for the Dutch education system, she said, is the straining relationship between an increase in the number of university students and ‘the tradition to provide access to free or highly subsidised tertiary education’.

‘I think we should not hesitate to discuss selection at entry as a potential solution’


‘This is now financially unsustainable,’ Van den Boom said. She reminded her public of the fact that, in 2006, an advisory committee to the minister for education had already advised universities to invest a further 1 billion euros if they wanted to be able to sustain the quality of higher education in spite of the pressures of a growing student population.


The plea was repeated by another advisory committee in 2010. The investment finally ‘came out of the universities’ own pockets’ in 2012, Van den Boom recalled. A collective of Dutch higher education and research organisations, the Dutch National Research Agenda, has recently called for an extra 1 billion euros investment.


Van den Boom made what she called some ‘daring proposals’ to prepare the universities for the future. One of them was to introduce entry requirements, a topic that has been debated in the Netherland since 1997. ‘I think we should not hesitate to discuss selection at entry as a potential solution’ Van den Boom said.



Van den Boom’s successor Karen Maex did not address the issue in the speech she gave after Van den Boom’s, and the president of UvA’s Board of Directors, Geert ten Dam, is known not to be in favour of entry requirements. In September she said that selection efforts at entry would cause a ‘democratic deficit’ in society. Instead, universities and secondary schools should make an effort to create a more ‘inclusive’ education programme.