[lg policy] Dutch Minister tells HEIs to ensure accessibility for country’s own

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Jun 14 11:05:53 EDT 2018

Dutch Minister tells HEIs to ensure accessibility for country’s own Posted
on Jun 13, 2018
Claudia Civinini <https://thepienews.com/author/claudia/> Posted in ELT
<https://thepienews.com/section/news/elt/>, Government
<https://thepienews.com/section/news/government/>, News
<https://thepienews.com/section/news/>, under Europe
Tagged with Netherlands <https://thepienews.com/tags/netherlands/>, Nuffic
<https://thepienews.com/tags/nuffic/>, VSNU
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Internationalisation enhances the quality of the Dutch higher education and
is crucial for the labour market, but its growth needs to be balanced to
ensure universities remain accessible to all students, the Netherlands’
minister of education, culture and science said in a letter to parliament.
The country has 11% international students overall. Photo:
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*About Claudia Civinini*
Born and bred in Genoa, Italy, Claudia moved to Australia during her
masters degree to teach Italian. She studied and worked in Melbourne for
five years before moving to London, where she finally managed to combine
her love for writing and her passion for education. She worked for three
years as a reporter for the EL Gazette before joining The PIE News.

The minister also supported the idea of giving universities the means to
manage student inflow

The letter came in response to the internationalisation agenda of the
Association of Dutch Universities (VSNU), and to concerns about the
increasing numbers of international students and of English-taught courses.

Ingrid van Engelshoven called on institutions to “take responsibility” to
ensure that higher education remains accessible to Dutch students, and that
the use of English is substantiated by a rationale and labour market needs
and “adds value” to the course.

“We are slightly worried about the heavy regulation on the use of English
that is implied in the letter”

The National Student Union
was disappointed that stricter rules were not imposed by the minister on
the use of English as a language of instruction – arguing that prevalence
of EMI jeopardises accessibility.

The minister also supported the idea of giving universities the means to
manage student inflow, as advocated by the VSNU in an internationalisation
agenda submitted to the minister in May.

Nuffic <https://www.nuffic.nl/en> said it is “optimistic” about the
minister’s letter, praising in particular her focus on internationalisation
for the VET sector, the stress on the importance of intercultural and
language competences, and on talent recruitment.

It also welcomed the minister’s emphasis on the importance of teachers’
language skills when involved in English-taught courses, an issue the
ministry had asked Nuffic to consult on.

As for the government’s stance on language policy, Nuffic said the picture
is balanced – there will be additional checks but the minister is also
planning to relax legislation on the use of second languages in the higher
education system.

“Her approach does not discourage foreign taught programs overall but
stimulates institutions to make coordinated and advised choices that
guarantee availability of sufficient Dutch taught programs in our system,”
a Nuffic spokesperson told *The PIE News*.

VSNU’s Bart Pierik told *The PIE* that the association welcomed the
minister’s letter.

“It’s obvious that the minister has acknowledged our concerns and
intentions, she also states that she is willing to explore the new measures
we propose to continue the positive international influences on Dutch
higher education, whilst guaranteeing the accessibility for Dutch
students,” he said.

“We are slightly worried about the heavy regulation on the use of English
that is implied in the letter,” Pierik added.

VSNU’s internationalisation agenda encompassed several key
internationalisation areas, including increasing outward mobility,
attracting and retaining foreign talent and increasing the “stay rate” for
international graduates. But it also dealt with some “urgent issues.”

These issues include accommodation shortages
inclusivity and accessibility for Dutch students, and a hotly debated topic
– English medium instruction, which has recently seen two universities
being taken to court
by Better Education Netherlands for offering “too many” courses in English.

“We made several proposals,” Pierik told *The PIE*.

“The main point is: internationalisation of higher education is a good
thing. But it also requires [that] universities… are very careful ensuring
accessibility of education. The market for student accommodation also needs
attention, and so do the language skills of teachers.”

For Pierik, the “backlash” against English is not that widespread, but it’s
something the sector has taken on board.

“Universities need to make sure that courses are also offered in Dutch –
this is something we take up as a sector”

“I think that influx of English in higher education is a development that
some people are not too enthusiastic about, but I don’t think there’s a big
movement against it,” he continued.

“But universities need to make sure that courses are also offered in Dutch
– this is something we take up as a sector,” he explained.

VSNU also recommended managing and redistributing the flow of international
students, which is currently imbalanced in favour of research universities.

It further recommended restrictions for English-medium tracks, the
possibility to impose a cap on the number of non-EEA students and to charge
them higher tuition fees and include ‘diversity’ as a criterion for

The association added that if the student influx increases (due to
“unforeseen international developments” such as Brexit) universities
wouldn’t be able to absorb it without extra investment.

Studyportals CEO Edwin van Rest told *The PIE* that although the country
has experienced an impressive growth, it only has 11%  international
students, compared with 18% in the UK.

Commenting on the minister’s letter, he said: “we are happy about the
recognition of the economic and quality value that international education

“For both the sustainability of the Dutch economy as for its top
universities, it will be important to improve the ability to attract top
students and faculty to the Netherlands. Given the ageing population,
number of attracted students in total will start to count too.”


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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