In this globalising world with its borderless science and education, Dutch universities play a leading role. Universities and universities of applied sciences wish to make the most of the opportunities offered by international collaboration, taking the quality and accessibility of higher education as a starting point. Internationalisation therefore requires careful consideration. In order to achieve this, educational institutions are asking the government for more tools that will allow them to regulate the intake of international students, for example. Individual institutions can then decide for themselves whether they wish to use these tools. The internationalisation agenda which is being presented today by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH) focuses on inclusive internationalisation and the quality of education. VSNU chairman Pieter Duisenberg: 'This agenda is a way for the universities to say: We wish to remain world leaders. We are preparing students for a future in an international world and regard internationalisation as an important contribution to the quality of our education.'
Inestimable value, pressure on education
The figures are known: the Netherlands earns over a third of its gross domestic product from export and is one of the world's top 3 innovative countries. International relations are crucial for our society and also for our universities. Dutch academics collaborate with colleagues all over the world and Dutch universities foster the ambitions of 48,500 international students. Internationalisation offers a great deal of value when it comes to the quality of education and science. At the same time, internationalisation also involves various challenges. Lecture rooms can end up bursting at the seams if a study programme suddenly becomes popular among international students, the language of education changes and not all international students manage to find their feet here. Duisenberg: 'Internationalisation only makes sense if it offers added value for all the students, the quality of the education is the most important thing. We focus on an inclusive academic community, are working with the cities to resolve the lack of accommodation and are requesting new legal possibilities which will allow us to guarantee accessibility.' One example of this is the option to use an enrolment restriction for an English-language variant (‘track’) of a study programme.
Actions and ambitions
Internationalisation contributes to both the quality of education and science and the positioning of the Netherlands as a knowledge-based society. It also helps to address shortages in the labour market by providing international talent. The agenda includes various measures for this, such as:
- Coordinating the language of education at the system level makes it possible to ensure an adequate range of Dutch-language study programmes.
- The option of enrolment restriction for an English-language variant makes it easier to guarantee the accessibility and diversity of the study programmes.
- For lecturers, a minimum language level of C1 for English-language subjects is required. Students are offered language modules for both English and Dutch.
- Efforts are made to ensure that participation opportunities and student life tie in with international academic communities.
- For non-EEA students, the possibility of a registration fee and tuition fees which more than cover the costs will be created for study programmes which have a limited capacity but high demand.
- Under shared ‘Netherlands branding’, knowledge institutions will take part in international missions.
- In order to encourage more Dutch students to go abroad, we are focusing on expanding joint programmes with foreign institutions and targeted information for pupils and students.
These and other measures should further increase the value of internationalisation and guarantee accessibility. The agenda also looks further ahead and explores the extent to which the intake of international students could help to resolve imminent shortages on the labour market. In this light, we are requesting additional research into the factors which make international students more likely to stay on after their studies. This agenda is expressly intended as input for the internationalisation vision which will be presented by Minister Van Engelshoven next month: the universities can tackle many aspects themselves but also need support from the government in the form of appropriate legislation and regulations. Duisenberg: 'By means of this agenda, we wish to seize the opportunities offered by internationalisation for the quality of education and address the sticking points. In a world which is increasingly interconnected, this allows the universities to contribute to the skills of their students and the leading international position of the Netherlands as a knowledge-based society.'