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Accessibility and equal opportunities at the UvA

The Kohnstamm Institute was commissioned by the University of Amsterdam to conduct research into the accessibility of the institution and opportunities for students, regardless of their background.

The research consisted of two substudies:

  • Accessibility & study success
  • Reasons for dropping out

UvA widely accessible

The research showed that the UvA is widely accessible and fairly diverse. This applies to gender, migrant background and socioeconomic status. The male/female ratio is comparable to that of pre-university (VWO) secondary school students in the Netherlands. The percentage of students with highly educated parents is relatively low compared to the population of pre-university secondary school students in the Netherlands. On the other hand, the percentage of students with a migrant background is relatively high.

The percentage of students with a migrant background is lower at the UvA than at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Erasmus University Rotterdam, but the breakdown into degree programmes makes this picture more nuanced: in the case of Healthcare, Economics and Language and Culture, the composition of the student population at the UvA is more diverse and for Nature, Law and Behaviour and Society it is less diverse than at the other two major universities.

Equal or unequal opportunities

Study success is related to gender, age, parental income and secondary school final exam marks. However, a migrant background, the level of parental education, source of parental income and type of student funding do not appear to have a structural effect. The results are in line with the educational sciences literature. The report clarifies these differences in terms of unequal opportunities and (unintentional) selection. The Executive Board comments on this clarification in its response.

Response of the Executive Board

The diversity of the student population is an important focus point for the Executive Board.

Widely accessible and diverse
The Executive Board therefore welcomes the conclusions in the Kohnstamm Institute’s report, showing that the UvA is widely accessible and has a diverse student population in terms of gender, migrant background and socioeconomic status. The diversity is largely in line with the national data.

However, the report does indicate differences between degree programmes. This ties in with the initiative to develop a diversity index that can be used to establish the level of diversity of the intake cohort for each degree programme and compare it with that of similar programmes.

For the Executive Board, accessibility goes beyond student intake alone. Accessibility is also about whether students feel at home at the UvA, in their degree programme and with their fellow students. It is important to pay ongoing attention to this, in addition to the intake data.  

Study success and equal opportunities
Study success is related to gender, age, parental income and final exam marks. The Executive Board welcomes the conclusion that migrant background and academic generation do not appear to have a structural effect on study success. In terms of study success, students with a migrant background and ‘first-generation’ students do not appear to deviate from the other students. In this context, the Executive Board notes that the report relates to advancement and whether or not the diploma is obtained. It does not look at activities in addition to the degree programme, such as exchanges or work placements. There may be other factors outside the UvA’s direct sphere of influence that cause outcome inequality in the face of equal opportunities (e.g. care for family members, anxiety about student debts). A similar nuance also applies to the concept of (unintentional) selection. The word selection suggests that the UvA distinguishes between people in its policy or culture. It is not possible to reach conclusions about this on the basis of outcome inequality alone.

The Executive Board regards the dropout-related results as a first step towards further research at the UvA into the background characteristics of students. Figures relating to both the inflow, advancement and outflow of students with different social backgrounds and the experiences of students (and lecturers) will be required if the necessary improvements are to be made.