Sunday 05 December 2021

VVD calls for limits on international student numbers, urges minister to act


The ruling VVD is asking the government to intervene so that universities can place limits on the number of international students, in particular those from outside the European Economic Area, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Thursday.

The party’s education spokeswoman Hatte van der Woude said during a debate on the education ministry budget on Wednesday that the Netherlands was not prepared for the number of foreign students and that urgent action is needed.

Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven had been preparing legislation which would have allowed universities to limit numbers but the plan was put on hold because it is deemed controversial and cannot therefore be enacted by the caretaker government.

However, the higher education sector cannot wait, Van der Woude said. She called on the government to at least begin a pilot project to limit numbers of students from outside the EU.

The number of international students coming to the Netherlands rose by 4% at the start of the current academic year, and three in 10 of this year’s new student intake come from abroad, according to preliminary figures from Dutch universities’ association VNSU.

There are now almost 80,000 foreign students attending Dutch university courses, of whom three quarters are from within the EU. International students now account for 23% of the total student body.

The growth in numbers is so great that the University of Amsterdam can no longer cope, UvA chairwoman Geert ten Dam told Parool earlier this month. ‘There is a shortage of housing, there is not enough room on the campuses, the work our staff face is unacceptable and the quality of education is coming under pressure.’

VSNU chairman Pieter Duisenberg has also called for legal measures to steer the numbers. ‘Internationalisation contributes to the quality of education,’ he said. ‘But there are limits to the options. Both universities and the cities where they are based are being stretched to the limit. It has to be done differently.

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