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The Dutch Education Council has advised on the Act Internationalisering in balans and wants minister Dijkgraaf, who has been working on the proposal for two years, to go back to the drawing board. The fixus measures for student intake get the green light, but the council expresses concerns about language measures in higher education. These would fall short in substantiation and feasibility.

Why you need to know this:

Dutch business depends on international talent. We are therefore keeping a close eye on developments around a new act that affects talent attraction.

The draft law

With 122,287 international students in higher education in the Netherlands – 15% of all students in the country – the government proposes to limit the number of students from outside the European Economic Area in some courses. The bill also includes measures relating to the language of instruction of courses, including offering education in a language other than Dutch. An important part of the bill is the introduction of a “test of foreign-language education”. When an institution plans to offer more than one-third of a programme in a language other than Dutch, approval from the minister is required. It will also make it compulsory to improve the Dutch language skills of all students.

The minister wanted to seek advice from the Education Council on the proposal. That advice came out today. The Education Council sees the need for a thorough reflection on the bill, due to lack of substantiation. In addition, the council points to alternative approaches to achieve the stated goals. It only approves the introduction of a numerus fixus for English-speaking (or otherwise) pathways, which could improve the accessibility of education for Dutch-speaking students.

Universities concerned

The University of Groningen, one of the largest universities in the Netherlands with a rich tradition and strong international reputation, previously expressed concerns about the minister’s statements on internationalisation. The university fears that the new measures not only affect the quality of education and research, but also limit the institution’s autonomy. The Groningen institution argues that cooperation across borders and welcoming the ‘international classroom’ have contributed significantly to its current stature.

Business community also worried

The discussion around the internationalisation of Dutch higher education not only affects educational institutions themselves, but also the wider Dutch business community. ASML, a leading Dutch high-tech company and a major employer of highly educated international talent, also stressed the need for international talent. According to CEO Peter Wennink, the ability to attract international students and expats is crucial for the company’s growth and innovation.

In short: The act is in tension. On the one hand, there is the need to manage the growth in the number of international students in such a way that Dutch educational capacity is not exceeded and the quality of education remains guaranteed. On the other hand, Dutch educational institutions and companies like ASML must be able to continue to compete in the international market.