The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (Vereniging Hogescholen, VH) treat the growing influx of foreign students as an inevitable development. One in three assistant professors is international, as are half of all doctoral candidates in the Netherlands. Over the past five years, the number of international bachelor and master students has increased from 31,000 to 48,000.

For the most part, the educational institutions see this as a beneficial trend: it improves the curricula and prepares students for an international career. Moreover, international students can help overcome labour shortages caused by population ageing. But to safeguard the quality of the provided education, the universities would like to have more money for their programmes, and more selection opportunities.


For example, the institutions want the ability to intervene when too many international students enrol in a specific programme or when the share of native Dutch students threatens to become too small. To guarantee diversity in the ‘international classroom’, they would like the option of selecting candidates based on their nationality.

In addition, the universities are in favour of offering both a Dutch-language and an English-language variant for the degree programmes. This ensures that Dutch students always have access to a programme (via its Dutch-language track) while the institution can choose to impose an admissions freeze for its English-language counterpart. Right now universities are only allowed to set an intake restriction for a degree programme in its entirety. Enabling a separate intake restriction for the English-language variant ensures that in the years ahead, Dutch higher education students can continue to enrol in their chosen programme – even when it is swamped by international applications.

Higher tuition fees

In their Internationalisation Agenda, VSNU and VH also argue for setting (even) higher tuition fees for students from outside Europe and for realising sufficient student housing to accommodate this intake. Furthermore, the associations want to make joint agreements about the working language used within the education programmes to ensure that universities continue to offer enough Dutch-language options. Where required, lecturers also need to complete further education so that English language proficiency among the academic staff is at least at the C1 level.

The Internationalisation Agenda published by the institutions of higher education is mainly intended as a discussion item and as input for the Netherlands’s Education Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven. Next month Van Engelshoven will send a letter to the House of Representatives in which she sets out her perspective on internationalisation and English-language education.

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