In 2011, an experiment was started whereby institutions for higher vocational education offer Associate degree programmes (Ad-programmes) in collaboration with institutions for secondary vocational education. Pilot round 4B was part of a series of Ad pilot projects. The core theme of pilot 4B can be summarized as the assumption that collaboration contributes to improving the efficiency of continuing education paths between secondary vocational education (mbo) and higher vocational education (hbo) and will increase the inflow of mbo students into hbo.

The results of pilot round 4B in terms of what the round has put into effect can be called modest. It cannot be concluded that institutions for secondary and higher vocational education have started to think more consciously about collaboration. Neither can it be said that the collaboration during the implementation of pilot round 4B has changed the social norm or that the Ad has become a ‘normal’ follow-up phase for mbo students. Furthermore, collaboration was ended prematurely with four of the initiated pilot projects. Dropout rates do not support the idea that the transition of students to a hbo/Ad programme is made easier as the result of involvement of the mbo. Nevertheless, pilot round 4B does offer some support to this hypothesis. This is because the operational collaboration that was unique to this Ad pilot offered a context to identify and evaluate differences in the programme structure and didactic approaches between mbo and hbo, and the opportunity to practically adapt the study programme. The start of the Ad at an mbo location seems of less importance.

The true gains are in the processes that are made possible through the collaboration. Collaboration with the hbo offers mbo teachers development opportunities, just as collaboration with the mbo provides such opportunities to hbo teachers. Also at the institutional level, opportunities to learn from one another have been identified. On the other hand, the collaboration in 4B has left little traces at the administrative level. Pilot round Ad 4B has not put the mbo-hbo collaboration with regard to executing Ad programmes on the map. If at all, than it seems to have been the prime achievement of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences with the Rotterdam Academy (RAC). It may also be attributed to the now unequivocal position of the Ad within the qualification structure of higher education. It cannot be excluded that only once the Ad was given an unequivocal profile, the collaboration between mbo and hbo gained a certain logic, whereby it could be derived from the success of the RAC that the Ad as a configuration of collaboration between the mbo and hbo holds promise for the future. Moreover, since in this constellation the Ad attracts new groups of students who would not have made the step to an hbo education otherwise.