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Universities in the Netherlands to curb internationalisation



With immediate effect, no new English-language bachelors programs will be developed and the universities will review which English-taught courses can be translated to be taught entirely in Dutch. 

The universities are also advocating for the legal option to impose enrolment quotas for English-taught programs which the current legislation prohibits.

“Only this will ensure full accessibility to Dutch-speaking students and curb the number of international students, which universities have been advocating for since 2018,” Ruben Puylaert, a spokesperson for UNL said to The PIE News

The measures, which were agreed by the association of 14 leading Dutch institutions known as UNL, aim to strengthen the Dutch language proficiency of students and lecturers, and will ensure that all major bachelors degrees are offered in Dutch.

Internationalisation is very important for the Dutch universities and Dutch society, but it also brings about challenges and tensions. To preserve the added value of internationalisation, we want to tackle these challenges in earnest,” said Jouke de Vries, acting president of UNL.

Currently, roughly 52% of bachelors programs are taught in Dutch and 30% in English, with most of the remaining 18% taught bilingually, as reported by the NL Times.  

About 76% of masters programs are taught in English, though the current plans only apply to bachelors degrees. 

Under the proposals, active recruitment at international fairs is no longer allowed except for sectors with significant labour market shortages. 

Of all higher education students in the Netherlands, roughly 25% are international students, with the large majority coming from the European Economic Area countries, in particular Germany. 

According to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, over the course of their studies each European international student makes a net contribution of almost €17,000 to the Dutch economy, with students outside of the EEA contributing up to €96,000. 

Additionally, one-third of international students stay in the Netherlands to work after graduating. 

In spite of this economic value, universities are now trying to curb the number of international students to relieve pressure on a system which they say is over capacity and increasingly inaccessible to Dutch students.

In a joint statement, the universities say that curbing internationalisation will “safeguard the quality of education” and “protect the top international position of our science”. 

But critics have warned that the measures could limit the possibilities of building international relations for business and science, and limit opportunities for Dutch students abroad. 

The news in the Netherlands comes after Canada announced a cap on international students due to housing shortages and concerns over international student welfare. 

According to student housing group Kences, international students in the Netherlands take up almost one third of places in student accommodation, with many Dutch students having to live at home. 

Across the country, there is currently a shortage of more than 23,000 student homes which threatens to increase to 57,000 by 2030 if there is no invention. 

The sector’s self-management has been encouraged by the outgoing education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf who has subsequently tabled a bill introducing the Balanced Internationalisation Act. 

The bill, a more extreme version of the universities’ proposals, would require a Dutch-delivered program for each proposed in a different language and set caps on student enrolment in non-Dutch programs. 

While the universities have welcomed the proposed enrolment restrictions on international students, many think that it goes too far in its policing of language instruction. 

“The choice of instruction language is up to the study program and universities themselves”

The bill would give power to the education minister to determine whether a degree program may be taught in a language other than Dutch, based on a “non-Dutch-taught education assessment” still to be detailed. 

“As far as we are concerned, the choice of instruction language is up to the study program and universities themselves. If politics is going to determine that, the autonomy of universities will be firmly interfered with,” said Puylaert. 

In its review of the bill, the Education Council raised similar concerns about the government’s disproportionate control over the choice of language study and highlighted the infeasibility of such large-scale recruitment of Dutch teachers. 

National student union LSVb also supported the universities’ steps to tackle the increasing issue of internationalisation, but expressed similar warnings against making courses Dutch-only and giving the government power to determine what the range of courses will be. 

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