MAASTRICHT. “A complete turn-around,” UM executive president Martin Paul recently called it. “Three years ago, the debate was about there being too many foreign students in the Netherlands and that they were too expensive. Then there were reports about how it benefitted the economy, and now we are asking the question how we can make it easier for foreign students.”
Paul is a member of a national steering committee for the Make it in the Netherlands campaign on behalf of the university association VSNU. The campaign is also supported by the schools of higher vocational education and the ministry of education. Make it in the Netherlands, as the name says, tries to achieve that of the 70 per cent of all international students who, according to surveys, say that they would quite like to stay and work in the Netherlands after completing their studies, more than the present 27 per cent actually do so.
In the first place, this requires jobs, said student University Council member Jan Hoffmann (Novum) during a discussion about the campaign held by a council committee. However, the campaign was not set up for that. It focuses on measures that will make all kinds of information more accessible for foreigners, to promote the Dutch language by means of a game App, and to ease contact between Dutch and foreign students. For example by introducing a buddy system and better access to student associations for foreign students. Bureaucratic obstacles should also be pushed aside as much as possible; even the Immigration and Naturalisation Service is involved in the project. The UM’s Language Centre contributes, on a national level, to the development of the language App, and a buddy pilot is scheduled to start in September, under the name of the International Student Ambassador Programme. ISAP will pair current UM students with arriving bachelor's students to facilitate a smoother integration of newcomers into university life as well as to create thriving interaction between international students and the Dutch society.