Internationalisation must become normal. That’s the aim of Ellen Hey, professor of International Public Law at Erasmus School of Law and since last year advisor to the Executive Board on the internationalisation of education. “Now, we often refer to ‘international’ and ‘Dutch’ students. Eventually, I hope that we will no longer make that distinction.”

ellen hey klein
Ellen Hey

In principle, Hey has been appointed internationalisation advisor until 2018. The biggest challenge of internationalisation is not language, according to Hey. “Everyone here speaks funny English. Native speakers sometimes have the most difficulty being understood: they talk so fast and fluently that they are difficult to follow.”

Cultural diversity is something which tutors and students will have to learn to deal with. “You sometimes see students laughing at each other in work groups. Someone gives an answer and it comes over strangely to the rest of the group. But I say to them: the same thing happens in the UN negotiating chamber as here in this work group. And you can’t laugh at each other there,” says Hey.

One of the concrete ways to make internationalisation ‘normal’ is to join an international network of universities. “That offers many advantages. For example, you can join forces to submit applications related to education or research and exchange best practices. You can also exchange students on a structural basis. Lots of students are still too apprehensive about going to study abroad. If we can make that easier, I hope that more students will go. You can get a bit more done if you have a number of good partners.”

International network

It’s not always easy to find such a network. In the Netherlands, Leiden, Amsterdam and Utrecht have joined the prestigious League of European Research Universities (LERU), whose members also include Oxford and Cambridge. EUR is simply too young for the League, and other networks ultimately didn’t offer anything either. “Either we weren’t welcome or the networks didn’t fulfil our wishes”, says Hey.

The Egg of Columbus: start your own network. “There are numerous high quality universities with the same problem. The question is: which ones? That’s what we’re now going to find out.” Hey expects that an initial meeting of potential partners will be held in 2016.