It is the fourth year in a row that the Dutch National Student Association (ISO), the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) and the Erasmus Student Network The Netherlands organised a survey to find out how international students are faring in the Netherlands. Not too well, as the results of the survey reveal.
The three organisations are particularly concerned about the mental wellbeing of the respondents. Two thirds of the respondents experience a lot of stress and 45 percent of them feel lonely or even very lonely. These percentages are higher than they were in the years before the coronavirus crisis - and even then the percentages stood out. Last year, over half of the respondents felt stressed and just under thirty percent of them were lonely.
The survey replies shocked Dahran Çoban, chairperson of the Dutch National Student Association (ISO). ‘Many international students are in need of help and this help is insufficiently provided by their degree programmes. We need to change that before the start of the summer.’
According to the respondents, the coronavirus crisis is also throwing a spanner in the works in other areas, such as in finding employment. One third of them even experience (major) financial hardship since September 2020. Additionally, twenty percent of them is dissatisfied to very dissatisfied about online education.
However, the coronavirus crisis is not the root of all problems. Finding (affordable) student accommodation in the overheated Dutch housing market is also giving many respondents a headache.
For example, 57 percent of them have been faced with ads for student housing stating that international students are not welcome. One third of the respondents have been turned down for housing at one time or another for being an international student, whereas over a quarter of them have been confronted with fraud.
‘We are attracting international students to the Netherlands in large numbers, but this also means that we must provide them with an affordable roof over their heads and combat discrimination’, said Lyle Muns, chairperson of the Dutch Student Union (LSVb). ‘Rack-renters all too often take advantage of the vulnerable positions of international students.’
Things are not always running smoothly socially either. Over three-quarters of the respondents would like to interact more with Dutch students. The language barrier is often an issue, they believe. Also during class they feel excluded when it appears that their class mates prefer to speak Dutch. However, language lessons are often too expensive. One third of the respondents are dissatisfied to very dissatisfied with the possibilities of learning Dutch for free or at a fair price.
Unfortunately, these problems are anything but new: research conducted by the Dutch Student Union in 2013 already showed that language is an issue. Also, the number of internationals who have difficulty connecting with their Dutch classmates was just as high two years ago.
High time for change, according to the three student organisations. They argue that the international student is now the Cinderella of higher education. They call on institutes to invest in better mental healthcare and affordable Dutch language courses.
What’s more, they also believe that better information about the Dutch housing market must be made available, in English, and that there needs to be one nationwide English-language website about work, study financing, banking matters and the health insurance obligation. Finally, the three organisations would prefer the Ministry of Education to conduct this research on internationals itself from now on.
The latest monitor included 737 respondents from 193 different countries. Most of them come from Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. There were slightly more respondents from universities of applied sciences (56 percent) than from universities (43 percent).