In the first year of a programme, universities use the binding study advice (BSA) to identify at an early stage the students who are unlikely to succeed. Most programmes require students to attain between 42 and 48 ECTS in order to avoid a negative BSA, which means that they will need to pass three quarters of their courses in the first year. Each programme combines a BSA with student counselling and frequent information provision to students at an early stage. If the standard to be achieved is relatively high, a programme will often combine the above with policy to ensure that students have every opportunity to attain the standard (in the form of an extra resit or the possibility to compensate a disappointing result with a good mark for another course).
Research that universities have conducted into their BSA policy shows that:
- total programme drop-out rates have not fallen; instead, students tend to drop out earlier (in the first rather than the second or third year);
- very few students with a negative BSA are just below the standard. If students fail to achieve the standard set, they are usually well below it;
- BSA standards vary, because the programmes and the types of students enrolled for them vary as well.