How to manage the influx of international students is a major debate in Dutch politics and a proposed plan from the Dutch Education Minister yesterday is unlikely to stop it.
Yesterday, Education Robbert Dijkgraaf announced a plan to limit the number of international students entering the country after months of pressure from the house of representatives to do so though he deferred revealing the specifics of his plan until mid-March.
He has, however, indicated that he wants universities to limit the number of spaces in English language courses that they offer and leave more space for Dutch programmes.
“At Our Maximum”
“As far as I’m concerned, we are now at our maximum,” he said. Though he is not the only one, with most of the house voting in favour of universities halting their recruitment of internationals at the end of last year.
Last year, there were 115,068 international students enrolled in Dutch higher education – 3.5 times as many as were enrolled in 2006, according to Statistics Netherlands, leading to full lecture halls, more competition for Dutch students, and housing shortages in cities like Groningen, Amsterdam, and Maastricht.
Internationals are attracted to Dutch universities by the affordable, high-quality education, and the variety of English courses on offer.
Over 600 international students were homeless in Groningen due to a lack of housing at the beginning of the last academic year.
“This has to end, it can’t be the case that this happens every year, it can’t be a case of will people be homeless,” said Marinus Jongman, Ex-Groningen Student Union president, who organised a protest which occupied the University of Groningen academic building last year.
Similar protests sprung up around the country in response to the crisis to try and force the universities and municipalities to do something about the housing shortage.
Against the move
“I’m not in favour of this discussion. I think that it doesn’t matter; internationals or national students, all are welcome in our city, and we are happy with them and one should make a distinction between those two. I don’t like this discussion at all, “ Groningen Mayor, Koen Schuiling, told the GO.
The mayor agrees that there is a lack of good accommodation in the city, but maintains that “people are welcome,” adding that “we have to make it possible for them to find a room.”
This month, the construction of 400 new units for international students was agreed by Groningen municipality and Student Housing Foundations (SSH). It is not clear how many more student houses will be needed in Groningen in coming years, however, right now there is a shortage of 27,000 student homes according to the National Student Union (LVSb).
Though this is not spread evenly around the country with universities outside of the highly populated urban centres arguing that they have enough space for their students and believe caps would only hinder the cultural and economic positives that internationals bring to their regions.
International students are a valuable economic resource for local economies and bring between 5,000 and 94,000 euros each, according to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB).
On Tuesday, both the VVD and D66 argued this point and asked for any caps to be open to “customisation” for different universities.