The internationalisation of higher education in the Netherlands is a topic of current discussion. In recent years, the number of international students has risen sharply, raising questions about accessibility to education, and the balance between positive and negative effects of internationalisation. The Dutch government intends to take measures to address these issues.
Frequently asked questions
In the FAQ below, we answer the questions we hear most often on this subject as best we can. The discussion is exceptionally dynamic, and many details still need to be worked out, so we will update this Q&A as the situation evolves.
WHY DO THINGS NEED TO CHANGE?
In the autumn of 2022, the debate on the internationalisation of higher education unfolded in the Dutch parliament. The debate focused on a number of bottlenecks in higher education, including limited availability of student accommodation in some cities, work pressure and lack of space at universities and universities of applied sciences. These themes were closely linked in the debate to the increased intake of international students in Dutch higher education. Dissatisfaction was also expressed about the increased number of courses offered in English. The parliament asked the minister to indicate how the perceived problems could be reduced, and how the Dutch language can be given a more prominent place in higher education.
What is going to change?
As said, they are currently looking for ways to take away the perceived negative effects of the growing international influx as much as possible, to provide tools for a more regulated influx of international students, and what can be done to have more attention to the Dutch language in higher education. In a debate with the members of the Dutch Parliament on 15 June 2023, education minister Dijkgraaf set out his ideas on what could be done to achieve this.
The minister has worked out a bill and will make agreements with universities and universities of applied sciences, which should lead to more Dutch-language higher education and may also limit the scope for internationalisation. Before the summer holidays, Minister Dijkgraaf presented the draft bill for consultation. You can find the text of this draft, as well as the responses that came during the consultation, on the website of the Dutch government. In their response, UT also expressed its criticism.
We are now awaiting the final bill to be presented to the Dutch parliament, and no agreements have yet been made between the educational institutes and the Minister. We do, however, have some insights on what may change. The plans focus mainly on bachelor education, and new legislation is planned to take effect from the 2025-2026 academic year. Until then, nothing will change.
Minister Dijkgraaf indicated that in bachelor's programmes taught in Dutch, a maximum of one-third of education might soon be taught in English. The number of (new) bachelor's programmes that have English as the language of instruction should also be limited by imposing stricter requirements on when this is and is not allowed. We do expect this to be a strict standard. There was an understanding in Parliament for possible exceptions, for instance, for universities in border regions, study programmes that educate for jobs in sectors with high employment and specific programmes such as university colleges. However, there is also a desire to limit the number of exceptions.
WHAT'S UT'S STANCE ON THIS MATTER?
In the various news releases, which you may find in the updates below, we have set out our viewpoints at various moments during the process. To guide us, we have formulated the building blocks by which we want to further shape our internationalisation policy. These are concept building blocks that are meant to give some clarity to the faculties and open a dialogue about how we want to approach this issue at UT.
WHEN WILL THERE BE CLARITY ON WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
In the coming months, the Dutch government's plans will increasingly take shape. We are awaiting a draft bill to be presented to the Dutch parliament, and education institutes will be in debate with the Minister to come up with a workable and effective solution to the challenges outlined. Because national elections are scheduled in November, which will affect the timing of the process, we find it difficult to make a precise estimate for when we will be clear on the future situation.
WHEN WILL THINGS CHANGE?
Our expectation is that any proposed changes will not affect education until the 2025-2026 academic year at the earliest, as there needs to be sufficient time to work out further and implement the decisions. In any case, there will be no changes for the upcoming academic year, 2023-2024.
ARE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS STILL WELCOME?
Yes, at UT, we will continue to warmly welcome international students and staff, as we have always done. We do so from the conviction that internationalisation contributes to a diverse and talented academic community, and from the added value that international talents bring to the regional and national labour market needs. In fact, in some areas, we simply cannot meet the demand from the labour market without having international students.
DO INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS HAVE TO LEARN DUTCH NOW?
If you start an English-language programme in September 2023, you do not necessarily have to learn Dutch. However, there are many extracurricular opportunities to take Dutch classes at UT, and we strongly recommend you do so. By doing so, you will become familiar with the Dutch language and culture, and it will be easier for you to connect with the locals. Also, if you plan to work in the Dutch labour market after your studies, Dutch language skills will give you better opportunities.
I AM STUDYING IN AN ENGLISH-LANGUAGE PROGRAMME AT UT NOW. WILL I HAVE TO TAKE SUBJECTS IN DUTCH?
We do not expect that an existing programme currently offered in English will abruptly need to change the language of instruction during a student's studies. Should you face a change within your study programme due to study delay, we will ensure that you can still successfully complete your studies in the right way.
WILL COURSES AT UT SOON BE TAUGHT IN DUTCH?
The minister has indicated that he will take a critical look at the regulations on the basis of which universities and universities of applied sciences determine whether a study programme should be taught in Dutch or in English.
This may mean that all UT programmes will have to re-argue which language is most appropriate. In some cases, this could mean that a programme will, in the future, be taught (partly) in Dutch, or that a programme will have both a Dutch- and an English-language track.
AS A LECTURER, WILL I HAVE TO TEACH IN DUTCH IN THE FUTURE?
Currently, we expect teaching staff to speak the most prevalent international academic language, English, at least at the C1 level when teaching at UT. At this moment, it is not realistic to expect English-speaking teaching staff to be able to teach in Dutch at a comparable level.
In his letter, the minister indicates that a "tightened accreditation framework will introduce a standard for proficiency in Dutch for English-speaking teaching staff. This requirement will have to apply to teaching staff in permanent employment and attain the necessary level within five years".
At the moment, it is not clear to us what exactly this means and what consequences it may have. We will have to wait for further elaboration on this, but we will certainly also enter into discussions with the minister on this theme.
DO I HAVE TO LEAVE the university IF I DO NOT HAVE A GOOD KNOWLEDGE OF DUTCH?
No. At the University of Twente, we value the contributions of our international community. They are an integral part of our university. No one will have to leave because of limited knowledge of the Dutch language. However, we are happy to help you on your way to a good command of Dutch, as it helps in everyday life both within and outside the university.
WILL I STILL BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND ALL UT INFORMATION IF I DON'T HAVE A GOOD COMMAND OF DUTCH?
Currently, English is the official working language of the University of Twente. We introduced this in 2020 so that everyone can have a say and participate in deciding on important issues that affect us all. In practice, a lot of information is available in both English and Dutch. We do this because we know that Dutch employees appreciate it when information is also available in Dutch.
We are currently evaluating our working language policy to see whether it is desirable and feasible to adopt a bilingual working language policy, with both Dutch and English as primary languages.
HOW CAN I LEARN DUTCH?
The University of Twente already offers a number of courses that can help you learn Dutch. You can find the range of courses on offer on the UT Language Centre website.
WHAT IS UT DOING TO INFLUENCE WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
We are making our viewpoints known directly to the ministry, policymakers and politicians in parliament, but also in cooperation with other universities, united in Universiteiten van Nederland. We are charting out the consequences of possible decisions, but also help to think of solutions that adequately address the issues that have been raised.
We are also engaging closely with regional partners from education, business and government. Together with these stakeholders, we also sent a letter to Minister Dijkgraaf at the end of 2022, in which we emphasised the importance of securing international intake at higher education institutions in the future.
HOW IS UT PREPARING FOR ANY CHANGES?
We have brought together a team of experts from various fields to monitor any measures that may come our way. In consultation with various stakeholders within faculties and departments, they are analysing what these measures might mean and preparing scenarios for how we can deal with them adequately.
DO WE, AS EMPLOYEES, HAVE A SAY IN WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
A guiding principle for the University of Twente is that the management of the programmes decides which language best suits the programme, and will take into account the opinions of their close stakeholders. Although this is an important principle that we would like to stick to, legal possibilities may play a role in the final decisions.
I HAVE CONCERNS. WHO CAN I CONTACT?
We fully understand that the current situation brings uncertainty. As it is not yet clear exactly what measures will be taken in the future, this uncertainty will, unfortunately, remain for some time. Don't get stuck with your feelings; talk about them with others. This can be done, for instance, with your colleagues or fellow students, but you can also speak to your manager or study advisor. They may not have a ready-made solution in all cases. Still, they can offer a sympathetic ear and ensure that your concerns are taken into account in our further approach to this issue.
If you do have specific questions about the topic, you may contact the Working Group on Internationalisation via email: email@example.com.
CAN UT STILL RECRUIT INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS?
Minister Dijkgraaf has asked us to be cautious about actively recruiting international students. However, there is room to continue recruiting to a limited extent, for example, for studies that educate for professions in IT and engineering. There is a great need for skilled staff in these sectors, and we as a university feel a responsibility to do our part in solving labour market shortages.
We are also open to facilitating study seekers orientating to study at UT, because we feel it is very important for everyone to make a well-considered decision about the study they will pursue. After all, it is an essential step in your personal future.
- 18 Sep, 2023Universities critical of bill on internationalisation in balance
Recently, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science presented the draft bill Internationalisation in Balance. In recent weeks, the draft bill has been open for consultation. In reaction, the University of Twente also expressed its criticism of the bill.
- 1 Sep, 2023Young Academies on the internationalisation debate
The Young Academies of the four technical universities in the Netherlands (TU Delft, TU/e, Wageningen and Twente) speak up on the internationalisation debate in a letter to the Dutch parliament.
- 14 Aug, 2023Bill on internationalisation for internet consultation
This afternoon, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science published the bill on internationalisation for internet consultation. As universities, we can respond to this, but you can also make your voice heard. The international character of higher education is extremely important for society as a whole. Now, and certainly in the future, we need to educate sufficient talent for the labour market, especially in deficit sectors and shrinking regions. Find the draft legal text here (in Dutch) and make yourself heard for the future of higher education.
- 13 Jul, 2023News update on progress internationalisation
Last week, at the closure of the academic year, we informed you by email about how we at UT intend to deal with the current issue of internationalisation in Dutch higher education. We have determined with which building blocks we want to shape our policy in this area. These building blocks are intended to clarify matters within our Faculties and to start a dialogue on how we want to deal with internationalisation in our organisation, thus anticipating any measures regarding the topic of internationalisation that are currently being prepared by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
- 5 Jul, 2023Upcoming Internationalisation measures
In anticipation of the regulations being developed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science regarding internationalisation, we at UT have determined the building blocks by which we want to further shape our internationalisation policy. These are concept building blocks that are meant to give some clarity to the faculties and open a dialogue about how we want to approach this issue at UT.
- 23 Jun, 2023Feeling of concern prevails after parliamentary debate on internationalisation
Over the past week, we have analysed the Parliamentary Education, Culture and Science Committee's debate on the internationalisation of higher education. The feeling that prevails widely within UT: concern. At the same time, we are determined to find a way forward in the spirit of the resilient organisation that we are and we are confident of succeeding in this.
- 16 Jun, 2023Update following Parliamentary debate on internationalisation
Many UT staff and students may have followed with great interest the debate on internationalisation in higher education between the Dutch Parliament’s Education, Culture and Science Committee and the Minister on Thursday 15 June, or read about it in UToday and the national media. Learn more about the debate.
- 13 Jun, 2023Universities jointly speak out on internationalisation
This Thursday, 15 June, Dutch Parliament will discuss internationalisation in higher education. Together with other Dutch universities, UT has provided input to the MPs for this debate. Internationalisation is essential for providing and conducting high-quality education and research, while we also recognise the bottlenecks that internationalisation currently poses.