Last term, there were mixed feelings when the International Student Barometer (ISB) results came out. For the first time, international students at the EUR were questioned about the university and life in Rotterdam. The EUR ranked 79th out of 84 universities world-wide. The same international students have now been interviewed again. This ISB is therefore called the exit wave. One may expect different results, but maybe it is still too early days for a real difference.

This time 93 universities participated and the EUR now ranks 74th, which is a slight improvement. Students were asked about their experiences regarding ‘learning’, ‘living’ and ‘support’. Learning is about the university’s core product: its education, and the EUR scores relatively well here, 59th overall. When asked about the teachers, the students are even more positive, resulting in a 23rd position. Also, the teachers at the EUR are said to have good English skills.

While the university’s education standards are very important, international students have plenty of other things to worry about too, while ‘living’ here: How about public transport, is the city safe, are there social activities accessible to internationals, can students get a side job and what are the costs of life, to name a few of these worries. The EUR is number 60 on the list here, but many of these issues lie beyond the university’s reach. Yet they are important and surprisingly, the EUR has managed to improve some things.

In the last ISB results it appeared for example that it was next to impossible for the internationals to open a bank account. The EUR recently made a deal with the local RABO bank. Students can now open a bank account easily. On other important matters, like the price of beer for instance, the EUR’s recruiters can manage the students’ expectations before they arrive. By giving students a realistic impression of what they can expect, they will not be disappointed upon arrival.

Like last time, the EUR does not score well in ‘support’. Support includes among other things: arrival, catering, career counselling and IT support. The EUR comes 84th here. The ISB results also show that five other Dutch universities perform even worse. Perhaps it is a Dutch problem that students are left to their own devices?

The housing situation is worth mentioning here too. It has never been a tradition in this country for universities to cater for their students’ housing needs, as Vice Chancellor Lamberts recently remarked. However, “with the EUR’s current international ambitions, things will have to change”, Maarten ter Huurne, of International Student Recruitment argues. Then again, this not something that can be changed overnight. In addition, providing housing is not cheap.

But the EUR is now working to improve things. A new on-campus health centre will open its doors soon. Also, the university organised a formal welcome for the international students on 22 September, to make the students’ start in Rotterdam go a little more easily. Many students showed up. Furthermore, Erasmus Student Network (ESN), a European student exchange network, will open an office on the EUR campus. Its six student staff will soon be able to help international students with all kinds of practical matters. Also, the university will now send degree certificates to students who have already moved back home. Previously, students had to travel back to Rotterdam to be handed their degree certificates. Lastly, there is now a permanent commission chaired by Lilian Jillissen, head of SSC Academic Affairs, which will develop long-term policies regarding internationalization at the EUR.

For the foreseeable future the EUR will keep participating in the ISB. Both Maarten ter Huurne and Lilian Jillissen believe it is worth the fourteen thousand euro i-Graduate, (the company behind the ISB), charges for the two research waves. The ISB gives the university a unique and precise insight into where things go wrong. In addition, the ISB proves a valuable marketing tool. The EUR can point out to potential newcomers its good points. Another valuable lesson learned is that the EUR must properly manage newcomers’ expectations.

Interestingly, the ISB shows that despite the EUR’s low ranking, students are happy with the university. This is demonstrated by the question whether students would recommend their university to others. The EUR ranks 21st on this question out of the 93 participating universities, among which are King’s College in London, University of Cambridge and Yale University. Not bad at all. KL