Minister wants to discuss internationalisation with lecturers and students


NETHERLANDS. The newspapers are filled with opinions and analyses about foreign students and the use of English in higher education. But education minister Van Engelshoven is taking the time before she puts forward her vision. First of all, some working visits.

Universities and schools of higher education are not supposed to recruit foreign students solely because this contributes towards their funding, the minister underlined in her letter to the Lower House. The quality of education must be the primary objective.

Study programmes can only be provided in English if this has added value and there are enough programmes in Dutch for students to choose instead. Moreover, the English must be good enough.

But these are the main lines, which were known already. The minister will not present a clear vision for the time being, despite insistence from the Lower House. “I don't like political quickies,” she said before.

She understands that the subject is on a lot of people's minds. Internationalisation of higher education is not just talked about “in boardrooms and lecture halls,” she writes. But that only makes her more careful.

She will visit universities and schools of higher education in order to speak with lecturers and students, she announced. She also wanted to talk to various parties, including student organisations and internationalisation organisation Nuffic.

Various reports and recommendations are in the pipeline too. The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) is looking into the influence of English on the accessibility of higher education and will soon publish its report. The Education Council of the Netherlands will shed light on the matter too. Umbrella organisations of universities and schools of higher education are expected to present their internationalisation agenda soon.

Van Engelshoven wants to wait for all this. That is the reason why she cannot give the main lines of her vision yet, she explained to the Lower House. She will be talking to Lower House members about higher education in English next month. But this will presumably be mainly an opportunity for Lower House members to express their concerns. Van Engelshoven is keeping her cards close to her chest for the time being.

She suggests that she cannot speak about her own vision until June. “I would like to add that the SCP report, researching the relation between language policy and the accessibility of higher education, will not be completed by that time.”

HOP, Bas Belleman