Minister Dijkgraaf is provisionally drawing a line under a bill that would allow higher education to control the influx of foreign students. The universities are fed up with it.
The minister wants to think longer about the problems and benefits of internationalization in higher education. That is why he is withdrawing the much-discussed Language and Accessibility Bill, which was waiting for approval in the Senate.
The bill is not only about the influx of foreign students, but also about the position of the Dutch students. The bill stated that study programs could only be in English if they had a good reason to do so.
Dijkgraaf thinks the issues are important. ‘I am very attached to the preservation of Dutch as an academic language,’ he says, for example. He also recognizes the problems of growing student numbers. But internationalization of higher education is also ‘of great value for the Dutch knowledge economy, education and science,’ he adds. That is why he wants to give this issue some thought first.
‘It's galling that we have to wait even longer,’ says spokesman Ruben Puylaert of umbrella association UNL. The universities have all kinds of criticisms about the bill, but they would ‘rather have yesterday than today’ more possibilities to control the influx. Government party VVD is also critical of the delay and fears ‘years of postponement,’ tweets member of parliament Hatte van der Woude. ‘We think you cannot let the universities dangle in the meantime. To be continued.’
Dijkgraaf is working on an administrative agreement with the universities and colleges of higher education, including a joint Future Outlook. Only after that does he come up with a ‘comprehensive package of measures,’ including ‘steering instruments’ for enrolment.
One of the problems with the large influx of foreign students is the accessibility of programs with a limited number of places. Some political parties find it intolerable that Dutch students are sometimes pushed aside by internationals.
UvA board member Geert ten Dam also previously called on politicians to arrange a student freeze for foreign students. Last week she said in a podcast of newspaper Het Parool that it should not be the case that students from the Amsterdam region have to compete with the smartest students from all over the world.
The Language and Accessibility Bill gave degree programs the option of two tracks: an English-language track with a numerus fixus and a Dutch-language track with no restriction on influx. That would help some programs out. ‘However, the bill does not offer a macro-level approach, while this might prove necessary,’ contemplates Dijkgraaf.
Yet he also calls it necessary ‘to take some steps in the short term’, if only because of the housing shortage. Moreover, some courses are running up against their limits. Dijkgraaf therefore wants to make ‘concrete agreements’, although it is unclear what kind of agreements he has in mind.
The universities have been asking for more legal possibilities for years. For example, they also want to be able to introduce an emergency fixus if a course suddenly attracts many foreign students and they want to be able to set a maximum for students from outside Europe.