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Column Rens Bod | ‘No internationals’ in house ads is petty provincialism

Rens Bod,
9 september 2022 - 09:34

There is systematic discrimination in the room market for students in the Netherlands. Every time I read No internationals or Dutch only on social media or in house ads, I get scared. Here foreign students are excluded from the housing market.

This practice has existed for years, but with the extreme growth in the number of students it has gotten completely out of hand. UvA students are also guilty of this. This kind of discrimination should of course be dealt with firmly. So I would have liked to see the UvA, preferably through the Executive Board, send an email to all UvA students urging them not to discriminate in the already overstrained housing market.

‘There should be a UvA hotline for international students who are discriminated against by other students’

But no, the UvA has sent an email to international students not to come to Amsterdam if they have not found a room by August 15. This is the upside-down. Let the UvA help international students find a room, among other things by telling Dutch students that discriminatory expressions such as No internationals are not acceptable. And that UvA students will be called to account if they are guilty of this form of discrimination. There should be a UvA hotline for international students who are discriminated against by other students.


It is also time for the UvA, together with other universities, to admit that the universities are partly responsible for the extreme influx of foreign students. For years they have actively recruited foreign students and allowed the majority of their studies to become English-speaking. As a result, 40 percent of first-year students come from abroad and are not proficient in Dutch.


In my opinion, the UvA should encourage, or maybe even oblige, foreign students more to take a Dutch language course. Foreign students may not need Dutch for their English-language studies, but knowledge of Dutch is essential to gain access to Dutch-speaking society. And if we are not allowed to make such a course mandatory, there is still such a thing as soft pressure.

‘Knowledge of Dutch is essential for internationals to gain access to Dutch-speaking society’

I do not want to underestimate the complexity of the problem of increasing student numbers, but once you as a university have admitted foreign students, you have to do everything in your power to help them and especially to counter discrimination in any form. 


That gentle pressure that we have to exert on internationals, we can also exert on Dutch-speaking students. We have to make them aware of the fact that statements like No internationals do not only show discrimination but also petty provincialism that is unworthy of the university community.

Rens Bod is professor of Digital Humantities at the UvA.