Last year there was a great deal of commotion at universities in the Netherlands because of the increased use of English as the language of instruction and the enormous increase in the number of international students. Universities were having great difficulty accommodating all the students wishing to take certain English-language degrees. Moreover, student towns increasingly struggled to find proper housing for all these international students.

Stopgap measure

Therefore, the education institutions concluded that something had to be done, but no one was quite sure what. Rejecting students on the basis of their nationality was not an option, because this would constitute discrimination. Limiting student intake would be no more than a stopgap measure, particularly in those fields where there is a great demand for people with the right degrees. Moreover, the latter measure would prevent Dutch students from getting such degrees, as well.

This being the case, the higher education institutions proposed that departments be allowed to offer both Dutch- and English-language versions of their degrees, while limiting the student intake for the latter. This would ensure that higher education remains accessible to Dutch students, even in the event of a tremendous influx of overseas students.

On the Minister’s terms

The Minister for Education liked the sound of that proposal. In June 2018, Van Engelshoven told the Lower House in a letter that she would draw up a bill based on this idea, and now she has. To ensure that higher education remains accessible, she is demanding control of which departments are and aren’t allowed to limit their student intake. Unlike the present situation, education institutions will have to provide good reasons for requesting permission to limit their student intake, even in those cases where they are only requesting permission to limit the student intake for their English-language degree programmes. If they fail to submit proper grounds for their requests, the Minister may reject said requests. Education institutions will be required to provide solid arguments for teaching non-Dutch-language programmes in the first place.

Increased tuition fees

In addition, the Minister has indicated that she will allow education institutions to significantly raise their tuition fees for students from outside the European Economic Area, as Delft University of Technology intends to do, starting from the 2019-2020 academic year. This is another instrument universities can use to reduce the number of aspiring students from non-EEA countries. Furthermore, the Minister feels it is justifiable that international students wishing to attend a Dutch university or university of applied sciences be requested to pay up to €100 for a recognition-of-prior-learning procedure and also to pay a fee for any language test they may be asked to sit.

Stakeholders are invited to respond to the Minister’s draft bill by 28 January, after which it will be discussed in the Lower House.