Koen Declercq and Frank Verboven, two economists working for the KUL research unit Vives, point to very low pass rates among a relatively large group of students that hail from less demanding courses in secondary schools. Often pass rates are below 25%.
The researchers looked at the results of 73,600 youngsters who started a university course between 2001 and 2007. Half did not pass in their first year. There is one big exception: medicine studies. This is the only discipline that filters access through an entrance exam.
Pass rates are also influenced by the type of secondary school students attended. On average 34% of students from Flemish Community schools pass, while this figure surges to over 50% among students from the Roman Catholic schools network.
The researches suggest that a form of selection is desirable before youngsters embark on a university career. They say that limited experience with entrance tests at Flemish universities suggests that they are effective and substantially increase pass rates without limiting the total number of students that pass.
Binding entrance exam?
The economists shy away from insisting that the selection procedure should be binding, but believe that even a non-binding orientation test could be a step in the right direction. They also favour limiting access to the universities by only admitting students from certain secondary school courses.
The researches call for changes to the funding system too because at the moment universities have little incentive to help students find the right course for them.