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Corona: do foreign students still want to come to the Netherlands?

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The corona crisis has a major impact on the internationalisation of higher education, expects director Freddy Weima of internationalisation organisation Nuffic. "Not just now, but perhaps in the longer term as well."

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Everyone knows that the corona crisis has a major impact on education. This also applies to foreign students, of course. The virus can seriously upset their plans.

Suppose, for example, that you want to study in the Netherlands, but have to take an English language test beforehand. These tests will now be postponed or will not take place at all. Are you allowed to come here? Is there a way to arrange that?

Working on it on every day
It is one of the problems foreign students encounter when they apply for a programme in the Netherlands, says Nuffic director Weima. "It gets very complicated; we're working on it every day."

The same goes for the problems of international students who are already here. It is quite drastic if they miss out on credits due to the crisis and also have to go home or run into issues with their visa.

It has repercussions on the mental and physical health of those students as well, Weima suspects. "Some get stressed out by the uncertainty. And they're worried about the virus itself. Students can get infected too, of course."

Nuffic consults with universities, universities of applied sciences, and ministries about all kinds of practical solutions for international students. But whatever they do, the crisis will have an impact anyway.

Trend
Weima sees consequences for the short and long term. There will probably be fewer international students worldwide, if only because of concerns about the safety and health of students going abroad. "We have to take into account that there will be fewer international students arriving in the Netherlands in September."

In the long term, this pandemic could even cause a structural shift. Weima: "Asian universities have invested a lot in their quality, so more and more Asian students are applying there. That already was a trend, but it will probably be reinforced if they don't dare to go to Europe for a while".

The digitisation of higher education is also gaining momentum. Weima: "Who knows, perhaps distance education will play a greater role in the coming years, also regarding internationalisation. Fewer students will have to travel.

Worries for later
But those are all worries for later. Back to today's practical problems. Nuffic is working hard to identify them and help find a solution, says Weima.

He mentions another example. European students are entitled to a Dutch student loan, but only if they have a substantial side job (at least 56 hours a month). Their health insurance also depends on this. But what do you do if those students suddenly lose their jobs?

Maybe that student financing rule should be put on hold temporarily. Otherwise, these students will be hit twice: lose their job and lose their loan. "We don't want to assume the role of the legislator or the executor," says Weima, "but we do give advice behind the scenes."

Reputation
The crisis inevitably affects the quality of the programmes. Could this damage the international reputation of Dutch education? That will be fine, Weima thinks. "This crisis affects the whole world. Examinations are being postponed or cancelled everywhere, and educational institutions suddenly have to provide distance learning everywhere, just like in the Netherlands. International students understand that too."

Universities of applied sciences and universities have not yet seen a decrease in the number of international applications, they say. The only question is how many students are actually showing up.

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