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Dutch recruitment ‘cease and desist’ a “wake-up call”

A director at a Dutch university has called the “cease and desist order” given to the country’s institutions on international student recruitment “a wake-up call”.

Hobson told delegates that the situation could play out in a number of ways. Photo: Roger Harris Photography

The Dutch parliament will be debating the topic on April 13

During the PIE Live Europe’s European Panel of Presidents, Breda University of Applied Sciences’s director academy of tourism Perry Hobson talked about the difficult situation Dutch institutions have been put in through the ongoing discussion on recruitment of non-EU students.

“Essentially, at the moment Dutch universities are waiting to hear back from the [education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf] as to what the future of recruitment will be,” he told delegates.

In the meantime, he recounted, a letter that was sent to universities late 2022 has already asked them to halt international student recruitment until a solution can be found.

While Breda garners most of its international student body from within the EU, Hobson has long been an advocate for international recruitment across the board.

“For universities who get more students from outside the EU this is quite a challenging situation,” he commented.

The Dutch parliament will be debating the topic on April 13, and a letter that was due to be imminently sent to parliament by the education minister has now reportedly been delayed until May – keeping public institutions in a state of limbo.

“This is quite a challenging situation”

Hobson told delegates that the situation could play out in a number of ways, but one that was particularly likely was that some universities – namely applied science universities – may be given a certain quota for international recruitment.

“The Dutch government may well say, ‘look, we’re happy for you to recruit international students because we see how it feeds the labour market needs’, but not enough are staying in the Netherlands, only 20-25%.

“It may then say, ‘we need you to help teach Dutch language and Dutch culture as part of the degree’. And as such, a pushback may materialise due to the fact Dutch universities have never been told what they can and cannot teach.

“That’s become a red line from the Dutch universities point of view. If it’s that issue today, what will it be tomorrow?”

With this quota being a possibility for applied science universities, it is unclear what the situation might be for research institutions, like the University of Twente.

The university put out an update on March 27 about its stance on the internationalisation debate, stating that its wish is to “continue to warmly welcome international staff and students in the coming period”.

It also made its position clear on the Dutch language issue, stating “we understand this desire and are happy to cooperate with sufficient attention to Dutch in and around the university.

“This can be done, for example, by looking at opportunities to offer programmes in both Dutch and English, but also by checking whether our language policy is sufficiently in line with this desire,” it warned.

“With certain types of programs, there is more pressure”

Hobson also touched on the fact that the ongoing issue was initially born out of a record number of international students in the country, a large number of which could then not afford or find housing, something Dijkgraaf cited as a pressing issue in an interview with The PIE in November 2022.

“Some pressure from the Dutch universities has come from themselves, wanting to climb up the rankings and wanting to recruit a broader range of students,” said Hobson.

“With certain types of programs, there is more pressure. One of my own classes in international tourism, for example, has 19 nationalities in it, and only six of them are Dutch students.”

His final warning came from the prediction of difficult positions that universities across the country may face if a quota for certain universities is put in place.

“I think the confusion will come from the possibility that some universities – those in applied sciences – may be able to get more international students, whereas other research universities won’t.”

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