Fewer exam periods and a longer summer break; what a ‘smarter’ academic year could look like

Four UG study programmes are joining a national pilot for a more efficient academic year. The econometrics bachelor’s attempt involves few exam periods and a longer summer break.

The faculties of sciences and engineering, philosophy, and spatial sciences are also starting trial runs next academic year. ‘We have the freedom to design the trial ourselves and we’ll make full use of that’, says a UG spokesperson.

Relaxing break

The bachelor of econometrics and operations research already has a concrete proposal. ‘The main feature of this pilot is that we’re shortening the academic year by just a few weeks of classes. But we’ll mainly have fewer exam periods’, the spokesperson says. 

The first semester is laid out in such a way that everything is finished before the Christmas break. That means there are no exams right after the holidays, which means people can truly relax during the break. The academic year will also end earlier to start the summer break. 

‘We’re currently re-tooling courses to hopefully ensure that students study more regularly over the course of the year.’

Decrease stress

The pilot was devised by education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf. He noticed that the academic year in the Netherlands was, on average, nine weeks longer than at universities abroad. We also have relatively few education-free periods, as well as less time for research.

By giving Dutch universities the opportunity to re-design the academic year, he hopes to decrease the stress currently on lecturers, researchers, and students. It would also afford researchers and lecturers more time for research and educational development and innovation. 


The other UG faculties are still working on the designs for their pilots. The university is collaborating with students and programme committees. ‘It’s all still in its infancy’, says a spokesperson. ‘Together, we’re investigating which designs will have the best and fastest results and which everyone can agree on.’

The experiment has an initial runtime of two years, after which it will be evaluated. The minister has made ten million euros available for the programme.



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