Dutch universities have come up with a voluntary plan to reduce the number of international students and increase the amount of Dutch-language degrees.
According to higher education association Universiteiten van Nederland, they have come up with guidelines to reduce the number of bachelor degrees offered in English, improve Dutch language proficiency and cut foreign numbers which are “in some places leading to bottlenecks.”
All major bachelor degree courses will have at least some Dutch teaching, the universities are inventorising which courses can be fully Dutch and will develop no more English-language bachelor degrees for now.
Jouke de Vries, interim chair, said in a press release: “Internationalisation is very important for Dutch universities and for society, but it also causes bottlenecks and friction. Precisely to maintain the benefits of internationalisation, we want to work seriously on solving these bottlenecks.”
A cap for international numbers on some courses has already been applied and this means around a fifth fewer first year international students at the VU university in Amsterdam this year and slight decrease at the University of Amsterdam, reported the Parool.
The universities will stop recruitment at international fairs for degree subjects with no labour market shortages, scrap a preparatory year for foreign students and have also called for a law change so that there can be caps on the numbers of the English-language part of a degree – rather than the whole course.
“This is the only way that accessibility for Dutch students will be fully guaranteed and the number of international students can be restrained,” said the association.
However the body also pointed out the value of internationalisation. According to the government’s macro-economic think-tank CPB, each European student is worth €17,000 to the Dutch economy, while students from outside the EER region are worth €96,000 each. About a third of internationals stay and work in the country after their degrees, and even more do this in the engineering sector – a source of much-needed labour.
But some have questioned the logic in blaming foreign students for Dutch issues such as a historic failure to build enough houses or take measures recommended by the Dutch central bank to control unrestrained house price growth.
Earlier this week the Dutch education council said more work should be done to evaluate the impact of measures to promote the use of Dutch language rather than English on the quality of education and research.
Robert-Jan Smits, president of the executive board at Eindhoven University of Technology, which relies heavily on foreign talent to teach and take highly-specialised courses that feed the lucrative Dutch tech industry, told Dutch News it was strange to be seen as a cause of woe although universities recognised they had to do more.
“We are proud of our international community and we want to fight for our international talent,” he said. “Yes, we understand there are issues, but we want to cherish them and make them feel at home here.
“There is a shortage of top talent. We know Denmark took a similar decision six years ago and regrets it: if you say foreign talent is not welcome, they won’t come. What is most damaging is the image that you are not welcoming foreign talent: it [simply] goes against Dutch culture.”
Dutch universities previously called the education bill “ridiculous”. However Smits, whose university is likely to qualify for an exemption because its courses are highly technical, said they are working hard on issues such as providing student housing on campus in collaboration with private developers.
There are 122,000 international students currently studying at a Dutch university, three and a half times as many as in the 2005 academic year and around 15% of the student body is not Dutch.
The UNL points out in its full list of measures: “The smartest brains from the whole world come to the Netherlands and students can learn from each other and from (international) scientists and students in an international classroom.”
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