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Dutch higher education sector awaits new internationalisation plans

Dutch higher education is internationally known for its excellent quality, accessibility, and wide range of English-taught programmes. Due to many years of growing international student numbers, some programmes and research universities in the Netherlands now face crowded lecture halls, high workload for lecturers and reduced access to study programmes. Furthermore, there is an existing housing shortage in the Netherlands, affecting both Dutch and international students. To address these issues, several research universities have asked for new options to better control the influx of international degree students. To answer the universities’ call, and to also satisfy Dutch parliament, which requested more focus on the Dutch language and sectors with labour shortages on June 15th, the Dutch Minister of Education, Robert Dijkgraaf, is working on new internationalisation legislation. Dijkgraaf said: Using this targeted, long-term approach, I want to prevent the quality of education in our colleges and universities from coming under so much pressure that our leading international position is undermined. My aim is to strengthen that position”. The minister’s approach contains three components:

Firstly, universities will be allowed to use certain student number caps in the future, of which cap on English-taught bachelor tracks stands out. Secondly, the minister asks universities to cooperate more on a national and regional level, which should bring education sector’s student numbers more in line with education and accommodation capacities, and align more with labour market demands. Thirdly, more focus is placed on the Dutch as language of instruction and as an education outcome at the bachelor level. Current and new bachelor programmes, of which more than one-third of the curriculum is taught in a foreign language, will undergo a test, to determine if they meet language regulations - which will soon be further clarified by the minister. Moreover, Dutch and international students will be required to improve their Dutch language (to different levels) during their studies and (probably) outside their curriculum, which should also help international graduates find a job in the Netherlands.

The minister will announce his new legislation on the 14th of July 2023, which will then be open for public consultation for two months. He hopes legislation will pass both chambers of parliament in the following year, allowing Dutch universities to use the new legislation to better control international student numbers per academic year 2025-2026. Furthermore, it is expected that more Dutch students will be encouraged to pursue their degree abroad in the coming years, to bring more balance to study degree mobility in the Netherlands. This is already an important priority for Nuffic. 

For more information, please contact Juriaan Beuk at Nuffic.