Effects of raising the bar on medical student study progress: An intersectional approach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Context: Medical schools seek for measures to improve their students’ study progress and are responsible for a diverse student population. Objectives: The effect of a stricter academic dismissal (AD) policy in medical school on short-term and long-term study progress was investigated in a longitudinal cohort study. In addition, differential effects for subgroups were assessed by intersecting gender, ethnicity and prior education (intersectional framework). Methods: Participants were first-year Bachelor students enrolled in 2011 to 2016 in a Dutch medical school. For cohorts 2011-2013, the AD policy consisted of a minimum of 67% of Year-1 credits required to remain enrolled (67%-policy, n = 1189), and for cohorts 2014-2016, this bar was raised to 100% of Year-1 credits (100%-policy, n = 1233). Outcome measures on study progress were Year-1 completion and dropout (short term) and Bachelor completion in three and four years (long term). Results: Overall, Year-1 completion rates increased under the 100%-policy compared to the 67%-policy (OR = 2.50, 95%-CI:2.06-3.03, P <.001). Yet, this increase was not present for students with non-standard prior education – except for males with a migration background (OR = 7.19, 95%-CI:2.33-25.73, P <.01). The dropout rate doubled under the 100%-policy (OR = 2.41, 95%-CI:1.68-3.53, P <.001). Mainly students with standard prior education dropped out more often (OR = 3.68, 95%-CI:2.37-5.89, P <.001), except for males with a migration background. Bachelor completion rates after three and four years were not positively affected by the 100%-policy. Notably, females without a migration background and with non-standard prior education suffered from the 100%-policy regarding Bachelor completion after three years (OR = 0.29, 95%-CI:0.11-0.76, P <.05). Conclusions: Despite increased dropout rates, the stricter AD policy improved Year-1 completion rates – especially for under-represented subgroups, thereby improving study progress without harming student diversity on the short term. However, these positive effects did not hold regarding Bachelor completion rates indicating that long-term effects require higher performance standards throughout the Bachelor, which in turn may harm other subgroups and thereby student diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)972-981
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Education
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Daphne Pol, who helped with preparing the data and merging the data into one data set for our study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Medical Education published by Association for the Study of Medical Education and John Wiley & Sons Ltd


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of raising the bar on medical student study progress: An intersectional approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this