This academic year, Dutch universities welcomed almost eighty thousand international students, an increase of 14 percent compared to last year. For a long time, the universities have wanted the means of controlling the intake, thereby safeguarding the quality of the education they provide.
They have waited two years for the Language & Accessibility bill to be passed by the Senate, but it was declared controversial after the fall of the previous government.
Out of hand
The call for action was echoed during the debate. ‘The intake of international students is still out of hand’, said MP Hatte van der Woude (VVD). In her opinion, measures are urgently needed because the international students ‘keep on coming’.
Harry van der Molen (CDA) drew attention to the anglicisation of Dutch higher education and wondered what this means for the intake of international students. ‘The anglicisation is the chicken and the uncontrollable intake is the egg’, he concluded. ‘We cannot keep complaining about the big intake of international students and then think that the anglicisation of study programmes has nothing to do with it.’
Minister Dijkgraaf emphasised the ‘enormous benefits of an international orientation in higher education’ but he too feels that the intake must remain controllable.
That might take some time, he warned. ‘The measures we are discussing are enshrined in law. The bad news in my view is that there’s nothing we can do for the next academic year. I think that, whatever path we choose, the new policy instruments will not be available before the 2023/2024 academic year.’
The influx of international students was not opposed by all. Jeanet van der Laan (D66) said that she was ‘very enthusiastic about the international perspective of our students and higher education institutions’. But, like the PvdA, she expressed concern over the wellbeing of international students. Could the Minister perhaps check into that?
In the Minister’s view, student wellbeing has already been adequately examined. He believes, however, that ‘we are neglecting some of the students a bit’. In his opinion, this is because of the double message: come to the Netherlands, but sorry, there are a lot of things we cannot provide. ‘I think that’s why we want to create a balance.’