What was your first reaction to the challenges faced by many international couples at the UT? Were you aware of the issue beforehand?
Machteld Roos: ‘We think this is a very important topic. We are aware of it, we hear of it from our staff and we want to facilitate an easy transition for internationals arriving here. We have high ambitions as a university and as a region, and so we can certainly improve. It’s good to have this on the agenda now.
Welcoming new colleagues and making sure that they and their families settle in is very important to us. I think Twente is a very open and welcoming region, but it takes a lot of time and effort on all sides to get settled and integrated. Guidance is very important – and that is something we could work on.’
Are there already any policies in place to help couples and families arriving to Twente?
‘At the UT we help new colleagues with a lot of procedures, such as arranging visas. When we know that they will arrive with a spouse or family, we try to provide help for them too. Our HR department offers the ‘dual career’ service. Through affiliated Chain company we provide guidance for a new career and finding a job. We also offer coaching and we refer families to the international school in Twente.
To ensure that they also find social life in the region, we strongly encourage people to attend networking events. There is the local Expat Centre that we introduce people to and invite them to their regular Meet & Greet events with also the possibility to connect to voluntary buddies. Even though many people speak English here, it’s helpful if newcomers learn Dutch. The UT Language Centre offers courses, and partners of UT employees can attend the courses with a discount. When employees start their new job at the UT, their partners can also make use of many UT facilities, like sports and culture via the CampusCard.’
Taking care of the employees’ partners is not necessarily the UT’s task. Do you see it as the university’s responsibility?
‘Getting socially and professionally connected should be supported by all of us. After all, we have the ambition and therefore the obligation to welcome new people in Twente.’
Do you see any room for improvement in the services the UT offers?
‘There is always room for improvement. What we certainly could improve is the information we provide on our website. Having all this information easily accessible would also help the partners even before moving to the Netherlands. We do our best to make people feel at home, but it would help if there was better guidance from our side. The access to information could be improved.’
In the interview published last week, the impacted couples mentioned several specific solutions that the UT could implement. Do you think any of them are feasible?
‘They talked about volunteering jobs at the UT. Voluntary jobs are surely a great means for people to settle in and establish a network. Within our own organisation, this may be a bit complex because of legislation, but within our community there are opportunities for this. There are a lot of sport and culture associations on campus and volunteers are always needed. For example, the Batavierenrace is just around the corner and I know they always need a lot of volunteers. I also think it would be a nice idea to set up a Buddy system for spouses of our employees in the UT community. Yes, there are already big networking events that people can attend, but some might prefer one on one approach. There should be a broad or of options for people to find their way. This is a topic that needs attention because we really want people to feel at home here.’