Every year, whilst thousands of students set foot in Belgian universities for the first time, the concern of failing the first year of higher education becomes apparent. This academic year is no exception.

Failure in Belgian universities

The problem of failure in higher education is a great concern, so much so that it prompted Minister Marcourt to create a reform which shook Belgian universities: the “Décret Paysage” a reform aimed at changing the organisation and structure of higher education. Amongst other things, the reform wanted to change the reference threshold from 12/20 to 10/20 as of September 2015 and certain people saw this as encouraging mediocrity. Given the uproar surrounding this subject, we should perhaps have a look at the source of the issue in more detail. Indeed, a student costs the community € 7,000 / year on average and registration fees, accommodation, buying books, etc. also represent a huge investment for the families. Not to mention the feeling of wasted time and frustration that comes with failing, because seeing your career plans in shambles is never easy to accept and can have an extremely negative impact on the confidence of students. Preventing hypothetical future failures seems just as important as keeping current failure rates in check.

Identifying the causes of the failure

There is a solution to every problem, and failure should in no way be the end of the world. It is, therefore, necessary to identify and analyse the origins of it. Hard changes, difficult adaptation, poor working method, insufficient motivation – the causes are of a diverse and varied nature. You could almost say that there are as many reasons for failing as there are students, and for good reason! Everyone adapts at their own pace, depending on their personality, abilities, but also their motivation. Therefore there is no need to try to blame it on a specific reason. Let’s start with a simple observation: each academic year has its share of “dropouts”, but it also has disappointed people. Indeed, many students regret their choice and decide to change path. So is it not a flaw that could more easily be sorted out at the high school level?

The importance of adequate career guidance

It is already difficult for a young person to leave their family and live independently, and on top of that, choosing studies can be a heavy burden to carry. An adapted career guidance process can help avoid any complications that may arise and as the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Each person should be able to find their place and blossom throughout their professional career. The labour market offers infinite possibilities, however, young people seem to lack clear information that could help them make the right decision. In most cases, your calling won’t just appear out of nowhere – choosing a career path implies asking the right questions and evaluating the subject from different angles. Hence the need to seek help from a third party specialised in personalised career guidance.

Several factors can explain the failure rate in the first year of higher education. Firstly, the students don’t always ask the right questions and choose their studies for all the wrong reasons. We may, for example, choose the university closest to home or choose studies that have a certain reputation, which is often the case with medicine. Another factor is the way in which career guidance is integrated throughout school, or rather, how it isn’t. It is important to highlight that right now, students in most schools do basic tests in their final year which are often provided by the PMS centres, even though choosing a career path really needs time and serious thought. However, we shouldn’t blame the PMS centres for this, as they often lack means and aren’t specialised in career guidance.

People often feel like they “have the right” to find themselves and to make mistakes. However, the Personalised Career Guidance process allows you to ask yourself the right questions and in that way, to avoid the financial and emotional costs linked to failing, mostly for the student themselves, but also for the family and even society.


To know more about OrientaEuro’s Personalised Career Guidance, please click here.