Study Abroad: Netherlands to impose curbs on international students’ admission

Netherlands plans to convert all English-taught bachelor's degree programmes to Dutch; asks universities to work on international students’ retention.

Netherlands working to restrict inflow of international students (image - Pexels)Netherlands working to restrict inflow of international students (image - Pexels)

Pritha Roy Choudhury | February 16, 2024 | 01:04 PM IST

NEW DELHI: In order to check the inflow of international students, universities in the Netherlands will be taking steps to ensure that “tertiary education remains accessible to all citizens of the Netherlands”. Ruben Puylaert, spokesperson of Universiteit van Nederland (UNL) – a top body of 14 universities in the country – said: “With immediate effect, the Dutch universities will be taking their own measures to manage the influx of international students and improve Dutch language skills.”

This development follows a request from the Netherlands ministry of education, culture and science. On December 21 last year, Robbert Dijkgraaf, the minister for education, had asked UNL and the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) to work on reducing the influx of international students and improving Dutch language skills. Talking about the importance of international students, Dijkgraaf emphasised on the requirement of balanced accessibility keeping in mind what society and institutions can handle.

“I plan to use a joint and well-considered approach in order to strike a balance. My goal is to maintain the intrinsic value of internationalisation. This requires balance through accessibility and by considering what society and the institutions can handle. It is very important that tertiary education is and will remain accessible to all citizens of the Netherlands. So we have to take action now. The legislative proposal is intended to allow for thorough, focused and speedy intervention,” said Dijkgraaf.

More Dutch-taught programmes

According to the government of the Netherlands, more than 25% of students in higher educational institutions are international. Nearly 45% of them come to the Netherlands to complete their bachelor's degree programme. This, the government says, will put Dutch students’ accessibility to certain English-taught programmes at risk.

The universities, as per UNL, will start offering more Dutch-taught degree programmes and all the major bachelor’s degree programmes will be taught in the Dutch language. The process to convert English-taught bachelor degree programmes to Dutch is underway, the UNL said.

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Education in Netherlands: Why cut international students

Recently, the lower house of parliament in the Netherlands had raised concerns on the increase in English-taught programmes in the country and had called upon the government to take effective measures.

To address the issue, Dijkgraaf asked the UAS and the UNL to submit the first draft of their proposal of self-management of international students in higher educational institutions. Dijkgraaf said that he wanted higher educational institutions to complete the approach by March 2024.

According to the acting president of UNL, Jouke De Vries, “Internationalisation is very important for the Dutch universities and the Dutch society, but it also brings about challenges and tensions. To preserve the added value of internationalisation, we want to tackle these challenges in earnest”.

Retaining international students

The universities will also be working on coming up with agreements with the regional and national employers in the country to employ international students after they complete their education. Presently, a third of the students are working in the Netherlands. Every university will work with regional and national employers of the country to develop a plan to increase the retention rate of international graduates as per the first draft of the UNL proposal.

“With this package of measures, the universities are taking their responsibility to respond to society’s concerns, to safeguard the quality of education, to address problems, to protect the top international position of our science and to implement a sustainable influx of international students,” said De Vries.

Further, a more detailed plan will follow by mid-March 2024 in response to the call by the Dutch ministry of education, culture and science, the UNL added.

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Netherlands economy and international students

International students add significant value to the Dutch economy, as per the Netherlands Bureau of Economic Policy (CPB). The net contribution from a European student is almost 17,000 Euros, and that from a student coming from outside the European economic area is 96,000 Euros, the UNL said.

But universities also say that a larger number of international students are putting pressure on the quality of education. Many of the cities in the Netherlands are also facing issues with insufficient student accommodation.

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