The academic year is too long and too full

6 September 2021

The Dutch academic year is exceptionally long. This causes a high work pressure for instructors and students and leaves little time for research and other core scientific duties. The Young Academy compared the Dutch academic year with other countries and is making concrete recommendations for improvement.

Dutch instructors spend on average two entire months more per year on teaching or examining than their colleagues at universities in a random international sample. This is evident from the report ‘A smarter academic year that was published today by The Young Academy. Moreover, the academic year has hardly any breaks between September and July. Research and other core duties are therefore compromised and students and instructors experience a high work pressure.

The report argues that the optimal length and division of the academic year differs greatly between disciplines and domains: for example, the optimal year division for medicine may be different from that for law or Dutch language studies. The Young Academy recommends (1) adapting the academic year flexibly to the needs of different disciplines, (2) reducing the number of teaching weeks and (3) the number of test weeks, (4) strictly ‘protecting’ teaching-free periods, and (5) diversifying teaching methods and encouraging student autonomy.