Dutch universities caution against cutting English-language technical courses
Five Dutch universities warned in an op-ed published by De Volkskrant that the Netherlands cannot afford to restrict English-language courses in the technical domain, given the current need for international talent in major transitions such as energy, food supply, climate, and digitalization.
The op-ed, signed by the rectors and chairman of TU Delft, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente, Wageningen University & Research, and the University of Groningen, expressed deep concern about the substantial cuts in education and science proposed by many political parties.
The universities emphasized the critical role of engineers in these transitions but noted that the Netherlands is not producing enough technicians compared to its neighboring countries, ranking only 27th among the 37 OECD countries in terms of master's graduates in technology.
They observed a decline in Dutch students opting for science and technology studies and stressed the importance of fostering early interest in technology and strengthening science and technology education at the primary and secondary levels.
However, the universities warned that this alone would not suffice due to the demographic situation in the Netherlands and shortages in various sectors. International influx of students remains absolutely indispensable,” they stated, pointing out that many international technology students continue to work in the Netherlands after their studies.
They argued that making technical bachelor's programs predominantly Dutch-speaking, as some political parties advocate, would be problematic and could potentially harm the Netherlands' reputation as a desirable destination for international talent.
“We notice that the discussion about limiting English in scientific education leads to doubts among international talent about coming to the Netherlands and that international students and scientists in the Netherlands wonder whether they would not be better off looking for a job elsewhere,” they wrote.
They also highlighted that investing in education and science is economically beneficial, and referred to a recent study showing that every euro invested by the Dutch government in technical universities yields a 9-euro return in gross added value to the economy. However, they criticized the CPB election manifesto models for only including investments in science as costs, omitting the benefits.
“This means that cutting back on education and science, as proposed by many parties, may seem like a logical choice, but this will ultimately cost society billions,” they concluded.