Dutch Minister wants more room for, supervision on internationalization of higher education

Higher education in the Netherlands must be able to internationalize further, but only if it improves the quality of education and if Dutch students are not displaced, according to Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven of Education. She is therefore giving universities and universities of applied sciences more room to internationalize, but this will go with clearer conditions and stricter supervision, ANP reports.

Dutch universities are increasingly popular with foreign students, also resulting in more courses being given in English instead of Dutch. This development resulted in dissatisfaction among student unions, who complain that Dutch lecturers and students are not proficient enough in English to perform well and that Dutch students are displaced by foreign ones. 

Van Engelshoven wants to encourage internationalization, because it benefits Dutch science, the knowledge economy and the students themselves. Through internationalization, students learn how to deal with people of all sorts and are better equipped for the global labor market, she believes. 

The Minister is therefore expanding the possibilities for English-language education. Currently a university or university of applied sciences can only switch to English if it is "necessary". From now on, a course may be switched to English if it benefits the quality of the course and does not disadvantage Dutch students.

But these expanding possibilities come with stricter supervision. Supervisors will check whether the quality of a course is indeed improved by the language switch, and whether the chosen language matches the jobs that graduates hope to get. Van Engelshoven also want universities and universities of applied sciences to better coordinate their language choices. For example, an institution can only switch to English if the course is still available in Dutch at another institution, according to the news wire. 

The Minister also wants to give higher education institutions more opportunities to give Dutch students priority. She is considering giving institutions the right to monitor diversity in their lecture halls. For example, if only Chinese students take a course, diversity is lost and the institution can intervene. Institutions could also set a student limit on the English-language track of a course to give space for the Dutch-language track. 

Van Engelshoven's plans were met with little enthusiasm from the Dutch student unions, according to NU.nl. ISO believes that higher education is benefiting too little fro the arrival of international students. "The Minister asks a lot of everything from the universities and universities of applied scientists, but still doesn't invest a cent", chairman Rhea van der Dong said to the newspaper. "In the coming years, the minister is even going to make more cuts. If she really thinks internationalization is important and wants to do it well, she will have to come up with more money."

"The Minister has done half the work", LSVb president Tariq Sewbaransingh said to the newspaper. "She does not dare to take real measures." The union wants a national committee to check whether the accessibility of a course is jeopardized if it is switched to English. "The problem is that anglicization is also an earning model. We want an active market master who checks if it happens for the right reasons."

Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences are positive about the Minister's plans. They emphasize the importance of internationalization for the future of students. "The labor market is internationalizing", the association of universities VSNU said, according to NU.nl. "It's nice if students already experienced this with international orientation and following lectures in English."