‘Let's also look at the needs of society and the labour market’

Council of State positive about internationalisation bill

Britse vlaggetjes
Photo: Pxhere

Here and there, higher education is being stretched to its limits by the intake of international students, writes the advisory department of the Council of State in a recommendation published earlier this week (in Dutch, Ed.). It had already backed the plan of introducing the option of limiting the number of students admitted to English-taught tracks. 

Labour market
The department also understands the minister’s wish to assess whether existing and new Bachelor’s programmes taught in other languages are "effective." But, in so doing, the ministry should also pay attention to “the future needs of society and the labour market.” This goes for both the national level and the region where the educational institution in question is located.

Outgoing Minister of Education Robbert Dijkgraaf wants to encourage institutions to collaborate and "self-regulate" in the area of internationalisation. The advisory department thinks this is a good idea and even suggests making mutual consultation on non-Dutch-taught programmes mandatory. 

Legal certainty
The institutions need to know what an assessment of their programmes taught in foreign languages would involve. According to the advisory department, one thing that remains unclear in the current proposal is whether the minister will evaluate if the programme has enough suitable staff, Dutch-speaking or otherwise.

In addition, the bill's explanatory notes state that the minister will only intervene in the existing programmes taught in other languages as a last resort. However, "to provide legal certainty for the institutions” it would be better if the government put this in the act itself, the recommendation reads.

Exception for higher vocational education
The advisory department doesn’t see much reason to intervene in English-taught higher vocational programmes. There, the intake of international students has been fairly stable for years, and there are far fewer English-taught programmes than in universities and universities of applied sciences. This is why the department is advising not to have the assessment of effectiveness apply to higher vocational education yet, or at the very least make the assessment less stringent.

Outgoing Minister Dijkgraaf says the Council of State’s recommendation is valuable and will provide a substantive response later. In his initial response, he emphasises that his bill allows for “customisation (regional and otherwise), enabling us to attract (and retain) international talents in the places where they are sorely needed”.