Cautious optimism about Dijkgraaf’s plans for internationalisation

Last Friday, Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf unfolded his plans for channelling the intake of international students. The initial reactions are cautiously optimistic, although there is still some criticism. “He’s leaving quite some room for interpretation.”

photo ArtisticPhoto / Shutterstock

The intake of international students has led to heated debates in the House of Representatives. Internationalisation is great, but should so many students really be coming here? What effect will it have on the housing market, the quality of teaching and the position of the Dutch language?

Dijkgraaf stayed calm under the barrage. And he left a bill drafted by his predecessor on the shelf, as he wanted more time to think about it. After all, the flow of talent into the Netherlands is of great importance.

He postponed his letter to the House of Representatives a number of times, but last Friday he finally sent it. He wants to introduce a form of ‘central control’. He announced some practical measures as well.

Study programmes will be able to hit the emergency brake if too many students from outside Europe enrol. They will also be allowed to introduce a fixed quota (maximum number of students) for the English-language tracks, while the Dutch-language tracks remain available to all. Additionally, all students from abroad will have to learn some Dutch.

Hatte van der Woude, VVD

“It isn’t yet clear to me exactly what he wants to achieve with this central control. He’s leaving quite some room for interpretation. But we had already asked for the possibility of an emergency fixed quota, a maximum number of tracks in other languages and control of non-EU students, and Dijkgraaf is now going to put forward a bill to that effect. I’m pleased that he is no longer trying to wriggle out of it, but a lot of time has been lost.”

Pieter Omtzigt, independent member of the House

“It’s good that the government acknowledges at last that there are major problems with the number of international students in the Netherlands and is finally proposing a few relatively minor policy changes. But the measures are still a bit meagre. There are 115,000 international students. Forty percent of the students enrolling at Dutch universities come from abroad. These are important and expensive places that are funded from Dutch tax revenue to give opportunities to Dutch young people.” Omtzigt also wants more clarity on the Minister’s planned language policy.

Lisa Westerveld, GroenLinks

“Not much is concrete yet. I understand his guiding principles: naturally internationalisation is important and naturally there are problem areas. But what’s the best way of dealing with this? He is simply putting off the major issues, such as the question of funding. The letter mainly addresses the urgent problems and gives no long-term direction. It’s clear that something has to be done. Internationalisation is actually a victim of its own success: the policy was so successful that universities are now bursting at the seams.”

Joram van Velzen, Dutch Student Union

“It’s good that there will be control of the intake, given all the negative effects on mental well-being, quality of education and accommodation. But we’re unhappy that the Minister wants to make a distinction between European and non-European students. It’s sheer discrimination to reject someone because of their country of origin. That mustn’t be laid down by law.”

Terri van der Velden, Dutch National Students' Association

“It’s high time that these measures were announced. But we wonder whether these instruments will restore the balance. It’s essential that it doesn’t become too open-ended. The introduction of central control seems to show that the Minister is taking responsibility, and that’s a good sign. We hope this prevents a patchwork of measures and that more account will be taken of regional differences.”

Maurice Limmen, Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences

“The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences applauds the Minister’s carefully chosen tone in the lively public debate on international students”, a reaction on the website states.  President Maurice Limmen: “It’s a good thing that universities of applied sciences are getting more ways of controlling the international intake.”

Pieter Duisenberg, Universities of The Netherlands

“International talent is essential for the Netherlands”, says President Pieter Duisenberg. “Both for the quality of teaching and research at the universities and for the labour market. In some study programmes, however, student numbers have grown by too much or too quickly to maintain high quality of education and manage the workload. So since 2018 we have been asking for instruments to assist us in this. It’s good that the Minister is now facilitating this customisation.” He also believes that the funding of universities ought to be less dependent on student numbers.

Nuffic, national organisation for internationalisation in education

“Nuffic is pleased with this well-considered letter, in which the Minister stresses the added value of internationalisation and announces a targeted approach to problem areas”, says Director-General Titia Bredée. Among other things, Nuffic would like obstacles to Dutch students studying abroad to be removed, so that there is a better ‘balance’.

Share this article