No curbs yet on intake of international students

Welcome Day 2021. Photo: DUB

This academic year, Dutch universities welcomed almost 80,000 international students, an increase of 14 per cent compared to last year. Dutch universities have been calling for means to control the intake, thereby safeguarding the quality of the education they provide.

They waited two years for the Language & Accessibility bill to be passed. It is currently awaiting Senate approval, 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 “just 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 influx of international students and then think that the anglicisation of our study programmes has nothing to do with it.”

Under control
Dijkgraaf emphasised the “significant benefits of an international orientation in higher education” but he too feels that the intake must remain under control.

But 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 about the next academic year. Whatever path we choose, the new policy instruments will not be available before 2023/2024”

Student wellbeing
Not all MPs were opposed to the influx of international students. Jeanet van der Laan (D66) said she is “very enthusiastic about the international perspective of our students and higher education institutions”. But she expressed concern about the well-being of international students, asking whether the minister could pay closer attention to that.

In Dijkgraaf’s view, students' mental health has already been adequately examined. He believes, however, that “we are neglecting some of the students a bit”. What he means is that international students are getting mixed messages: they are encouraged to come to the Netherlands, but once they are here, there are things universities cannot provide. “I think that’s why we need to create a balance.”