Lottery Selection for Medical Students scrapped in the Netherlands?

Oh no it is not! There is still a large element of lottery selection, but because of de-centralisation, under the new rules it is difficult to tell how much more (or less) ‘loting‘ will take place. 

In 2012 it looked pretty terminal

“Lottery to be scrapped for medical students, fixed places remain

Friday 17 February 2012

All students who want to study medicine will be allocated a place on the basis of their school exam results and motivation, rather than through a lottery, if health minister Edith Schippers has her way.”

But this was a proposal. The outcome is that ‘loting‘ — use of the lottery IS still being used, if less widely. Ben Willbrink tells me that the new Law passed in 2013 says that

“It is still the case that a number of slots will be filled

a) by candidates with a high GPA 8 and above [direct placement without any form of selection]

b) by a central selection using weighted lottery

c) by decentralised selection using any procedure the particular institution thinks useful and that is not forbidden by law

The ‘decentral’ part makes it particularly difficult to obtain a good impression of admittance to numerus fixus studies in the Netherlands: every institution has its own ways to effect the decentralised selection (even lottery is allowed here). “

More info (in Dutch, Google translate helps a lot) at

Sigh! Yet again an attack by the ignorant leads to a feeble caving in by the administrators. When the Drenth Commission in 1996 put the system under the microscope, they found that the weighted-lottery was sound; all that was needed was INCREASE the chances for the slightly less-well qualified. The result was, unsurprisingly the opposite.


But in other (good) news, allocation of places at schools in Brighton, UK celebrates SIX years of successful lottery use, and ponders how to adapt it to rising numbers: Schools selection lottery under review as part of £24m places boost.

2 Responses

  1. In 2011, the Dutch parliament amended the “Law on Higher Education and Scientific Research,” calling for the elimination of the lottery system entirely for all numerus fixus courses within five years (Wet tot Wijziging van de Wet op het Hoger Onderwijs en Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Staatsblad, 369, July 26, 2011). This was not a proposal but an actual law that was passed. The law was motivated by the recommendations of a commission that explored reforms for the system of higher education in 2010 (rapport name: Differentiëren in drievoud: Omwillen van kwaliteit en verscheidenheid in het hoger onderwijs).

    Though students with a very high average on their high school examinations will still obtain automatic entry to the course and institu-tion of the choice, institutions will have to eventually maintain a system of selection for all other students according to the law.

    In an interrelated move the government also eliminated the numerus fixus for medicine.

    First, for medical schools these changes are still being pursued according to the original time schedule. As the link clearly states that you give, by 2017 all lottery selection has to be phased out for medicine studies in favor of decentralized selection. As far as I know most medical faculties have now eliminated or are planning to eliminate the use of the lottery. Utrecht University, for example, stopped using it this year for the first time.

    The law as I read it certainly does not allow medical faculties to hold a decentralized lottery. Decentralized selection means testing for motivation and merit criteria. Even if the law allows them to hold a decentralized lottery, then none of them appear to be following that route.

    Next, the original law was intended for all numerus fixus courses of study. Clearly it still applies to medicine studies given all that is happening. If this course of action has been altered for other types of numerus fixus studies in 2013, then I have no idea which law that would be and would need a citation. As far as I know, all that is going on is that for other courses of study the weighted lottery is not being eliminated as quickly as for medicine. This is also what it say on the national government’s website on higher education:


  2. Lottery is always a difficult case. As you might also lose very good students due to bad luck. However, there are so many contestants that it is understandable that schools need to make a selection.


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