Dutch universities of applied sciences draft plan to limit influx of international students

The association refrained from divulging specifics about the plan, stressing the importance of presenting a comprehensive and prudent proposal.

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Dutch universities of applied sciences are also formulating a strategy to regulate the intake of international students, as revealed by the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. Acknowledging the predominantly Dutch-taught curriculum and the relatively modest proportion of international students, a spokesperson stated the need for a meticulously designed proposal.

“We are taking up the challenge to come up with a balanced plan. We see the concerns about this subject in society,” the spokesperson said.

The association refrained from divulging specifics about the plan, stressing the importance of presenting a comprehensive and prudent proposal. Moreover, they declined to comment on the potential financial implications of reducing international student enrollment, affirming their commitment to addressing societal concerns while ensuring a balanced approach.

Following the lead of the 14 Dutch universities, which recently announced measures to curb the influx of international students, the focus is on halting the development of new English-language bachelor’s programs temporarily. Additionally, the Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) are assessing the feasibility of transitioning certain English-taught courses to Dutch. Notably, key bachelor’s programs such as economics and psychology are expected to be available in both languages.

Despite the increasing globalization of education, the Association highlighted that the proportion of international students pursuing bachelor’s degrees at the 36 universities of applied sciences remains relatively low. Over the past few years, international students have comprised 8 to 9 percent of the total student body. The majority of programs offered at these institutions are conducted in Dutch, aligning with the focus on professions that primarily require proficiency in the Dutch language, such as nursing and teaching.

While certain sectors, such as hospitality and aviation, offer programs in English to cater to international students, these account for approximately 7.5 percent of the total courses available. The universities of applied sciences underscored their commitment to maintaining a balance between Dutch and English instruction, reflecting the diverse needs of both local and international students.

“We mainly train for professions that are and remain Dutch-speaking, such as nurses and teachers,” the spokesperson stated.

With a deadline set for mid-March, the universities of applied sciences are tasked with submitting their proposal to Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf of the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science. The Minister is spearheading efforts to establish legislation governing student quotas for English-taught courses across universities and universities of applied sciences. This initiative comes amid concerns that the influx of international students may disadvantage Dutch students and exacerbate housing shortages.

“The bill also provides for a maximum number of places for students from outside Europe if teaching capacity appears to be limited. This guarantees access for Dutch and European students,” his ministry said.

“In recent years, the number of international students has increased sharply to around 115,000. In university education, 40% of new students now come from outside the Netherlands (in 2015 this was still 28%),” the ministerial statement added.

The proposed measures aim to strike a delicate equilibrium between promoting internationalization and safeguarding the accessibility and quality of education for domestic students. As the debate surrounding international student enrollment continues, stakeholders are navigating the complex landscape of higher education to ensure a sustainable and inclusive learning environment for all.

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