Bachelor before master rule


General summary

The bachelor before master rule (or the Harde Knip in Dutch) obligates all students to finish their bachelor programme completely before being able to start with their master programme. This is the case for a while now but in the past this was different. In 2002 has the bachelor-master structure began, but from that moment on students could start their master programme while not having a few bachelorcourses passed yet. So, students weren’t obligated to wait for their bachelor diploma before beginning with their master. Since 2012 the bachelor before master rule is part of the law ‘Wet op Hoger Onderwijs’ and therefore obligated at every Dutch university. The TU Delft uses the bachelor before master rule since 2010 but the first discussions regarding this topic took place in 2006. The rule can be harmful for students because it can cause a huge unnecessary study delay. As ORAS we think it’s a problem when students have a year study delay caused by one course. We think students should never have a delay more than half a year caused by missing one course. We have started a bachelor before master rule hotline, where students can tell us which problems they experience due to the rule. That’s how we can monitor how many students experience these problems and give feedback to the university.


The rule has it’s origin in the European Bolognastatement, which all European ministers of education have signed in 1999. An important part of the statement is that every European university should have the same bachelor-master structure, where the bachelor and master programme are two different programmes. To make the difference between the master and bachelor more clear, the bachelor before master rule was initiated.

With the Bolognastatement Europe wanted to achieve three things:

  1. Influx in the job market of students with a bachelor degree, like Great Britain and the USA. There it’s normal to start working and do a master programme after a few years of work.
  2. Make switching between universities easier. In the ideal situation students should be European students and not Delft or Spanish students. Because you start a whole new programme when you start your master, you can for the same reason follow your master programme somewhere else.
  3. Make switching between programmes easier. For example, when you want to follow your master programme in another discipline then your bachelor. The rule makes it easier to do this. Often a switching programme is necessary, but swichting happened more frequently.

These purposes were good, because they increase the freedom of students. However, fifteen years after the Bolognastatement was signed it didn’t seem like the goals were reached. In the Netherlands students who only have their bachelor degree are not really able to find a job. Furthermore, most students don’t switch to another university, but just do their master programme at the same faculty where they did their bachelor.

In the spring of 2006 is the rule for the first time discussed with Rullman, the VPEO. The Student Council formulated some conditions before accepting the new rule. Almost all of these conditions were adopted by the university. On initiative of ORAS in 2013 the 7th semester retakes were implemented. In that way, students were able to retake the tests they failed in Q3 in the summer. Unfortunately, this was just for one year, because that year the communication wasn’t good about the changes regarding the new rule.

In academic year 2013-2014 we were told the hardness clause would disappear; that meant that the rule had become more strict.

Current situation

Because the rule is implemented a lot of years ago, it’s become ‘normal’ at the TU Delft and the university is used to it. With our hotline we still try to monitor problems and we give students advice. Do you experience problems due to the bachelor before master rule? Go to our hotline! (only available in Dutch).

Ideal situation

In the ideal situation this rule wouldn’t be as strict as it is now. It is important that the university acknowledges that the rule can give huge problems for students and they can say to exam committees to treat students in a fair way. We think an ‘exception’ is not only a student who experiences delay caused by sickness but also the student who failed an exam because he/she had to much to do that period. These students can be offered extra retakes too. If you want to know more, read our position paper regarding the bachelor before master rule (only available in Dutch).

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