They are not really all that worried, say the more than twenty students in the Statenzaal in answer to Habibović’s question whether they talk to friends about these issues. “Of course, we are already here,” one of them suggests as an explanation. It’s true that measures to curb the influx of international students will not affect them directly. But the rector saw the same thing during the Open Day. “No questions were asked there either about the discussion in The Hague.”
So, why are the students here at this evening to talk about internationalisation? During the discussion, it appears that they do think a lot about themes that are linked to the subject. Take student housing. That is an important item for them, despite a recent report stating that there are even rooms left vacant. “Rents have doubled in the past few years,” says a student who thinks it is the university’s responsibility (after all it wants to grow) to ensure that there are sufficient rooms.
“We don’t have an aggressive growth strategy,” says Habibović. “And those places where we are growing, we look into whether the programmes can also take place at our campuses in Venlo and Heerlen. It is easier to find accommodation there.” She acknowledges that if a room is unaffordable, it is not really available, even if it is vacant. “But UM doesn’t own houses. Also, the entire housing market is suffering from a shortage, not just student housing.” She doesn’t see a quota for international students as a solution, as someone from the audience suggests. “Dutch students may be able to live at home, but they don’t do that. That is also a reason to go and study, isn’t it? To live by yourself.”
How can you guarantee a stable influx of Dutch students when fewer and fewer study programmes are offered in Dutch, another student in the audience wonders. “Fiscal Economics at the School of Business and Economics is being discontinued, which means that SBE is losing its last study programme that is entirely in Dutch.” “We now see that Dutch students, even when they have the choice, often choose a programme that is in English,” says Habibović. “This has everything to do with the jobs that they want to have later on. The choice of the language of a study programme should depend on the demand from society.”
Then there is the chance of staying in this country after graduation, which minister Dijkgraaf also refers to. Which foreign student will choose a career in the Netherlands? One student feels that “as a student, you have a responsibility to do something in return for Dutch society”. “But I don’t see that in a lot of students.” He doesn’t really know what the university could do about that. Perhaps by creating more jobs, the student beside him suggests. “We are already trying to work together a lot with industry, but that could be stepped up,” is Habibović’s reaction. “It is up to the students what they want to do after graduation, but we improve how we show what opportunities there are here.”
It would also be a good thing in that case if they could speak some Dutch, says a student. UM does offer a free course in Dutch, but “that is very basic, it won’t give you the confidence to really speak Dutch. It would help if you could earn credits learning the language or if the courses were less expensive. For a course at B1 level, you pay 250 euro, which is a lot of money for students.”