All bachelor’s programmes in Dutch? Then UM may lose almost half of its students

All bachelor’s programmes in Dutch? Then UM may lose almost half of its students

President Letschert on internationalisation and the forming of a coalition in The Hague

13-12-2023 · News

MAASTRICHT. President Rianne Letschert is very concerned about political parties that want to curb migration – and so also the influx of foreign students – may be forming a cabinet. The horror scenario for Maastricht University: all bachelor’s programmes in Dutch.

It is clear that the four parties that are currently talking about a possible cabinet want to greatly restrict internationalisation and the accompanying Englification of universities. This concerns the main winners of the elections in November – PVV, NSC and BBB – together with VVD.

Language matters

At this moment, UM is talking to partners in the region about possible consequences of such a cabinet. An analysis is also being made – at the initiative of UM – of the impact that potential government measures might have on South Limburg. This will be published in the new year. At the same time, UM is working on new language measures for students. “We want to create a lot more space in or alongside the curriculum for learning Dutch. This is unrelated to anything political parties may say.” So, it is not opportunistic, she emphasises. UM has had a language policy for years, long before it became an issue in The Hague. “We are doing this to improve the integration of students and increase the chances of them staying after graduation.”

Great consequences

Should the scenario of all bachelor’s programmes having to be in Dutch indeed become reality, that will have great consequences for the highly international UM.

Letschert: “Then we would lose almost half of our students and we would become less attractive for young talent. Also, remember that half of our staff members are from abroad. I notice that a lot of our colleagues speak Dutch, but teaching in Dutch is something completely different.” It is not just the university that will suffer an “enormous blow”, the whole region will suffer. “UM is so much more than a ‘school’ that awards diplomas,” Letschert already said during a University Council committee meeting last week. “We are one of the largest employers in South Limburg, we are an important driver for the economy, for suppliers, the Brightlands campuses in Maastricht, Heerlen, Venlo, and Geleen. We need to show how important we are for the region.”

Curb migration

She pointed out that parties that want to curb immigration, at the same time want to stimulate the regions. “They will have to be careful that their migration policy doesn’t thwart the regions that they want to make stronger. I recently heard someone say: if education leaves this region, a lot more will leave the region.” But despite everything, she is hopeful: “I have faith in the fact that no politician would want it on their conscience that they caused damage to South Limburg and undo to a large extent what has been built up here since the closure of the mines.”

No one-size-fits-all

Letschert also hopes that legal measures will be introduced soon, so that universities “can be in charge and determine for themselves how many foreign students they accept”. At the same time, she emphasises that The Hague’s policies should not be a one-size-fits-all. In some cities, the housing problems are enormous, Dutch students suffering from the large influx of people from abroad. That is not the case in Maastricht, says Letschert. “If you choose a uniform approach for all, one institute and accompanying region will suffer more damage than another.”

Author: Riki Janssen

Photo: Harry Heuts

Categories: News, news_top
Tags: rianne letschert, elections,coalition,internationalisation,dutch,english,international students

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