“Zero per cent international students would be absurd, we need to find a good balance”

“Zero per cent international students would be absurd, we need to find a good balance”

MP Rosanne Hertzberger (NSC) visits Maastricht

13-05-2024 · Background

Rosanne Hertzberger, Member of Parliament on behalf of NSC, regularly brings up the internationalisation and Englishisation of higher education in parliament and saw with her own eyes how things are at the ‘most international university of the Netherlands’ last Tuesday. At her own request, she visited Maastricht University, Zuyd Hogeschool and the Maastricht city council.

She had good meetings with the various administrators, Hertzberger says a day later on the telephone. “We highlighted both sides: on the one hand, it is absolutely clear what the UM’s profile is: a European international university. At the same time, its roots – and hence also its social responsibility – are in the Netherlands.”

For her party Nieuw Sociaal Contract, two points are important: the influx of international students and Englishisation. As far as NSC is concerned, these have gone too far. Hertzberger: “We certainly do not want to go to 0 per cent international students, that would be absurd. But look at the situation back in 2015. Since then, the number of international students has risen sharply. Ban international students? I think that sounds very negative. But you do have to ask yourself: should we invest in their studies with public money? Is that the responsibility of a Dutch university?”

Social debate

Hertzberger also feels it is important for the link between university and society that there are enough Dutch students. “I was at MERLN (the Maastricht research institute that recently cultivated a synthetic embryo structure of identical twin, ed.) yesterday. The social debate about embryo research is very important. Dutch students should be involved in that. With so many international students (the current percentage at UM is 58 per cent, ed.) the number shrinks.”


Then Englishisation. Hertzberger believes that having other languages at a university could be an “enrichment. But if almost all your bachelors’ programmes are in English, you hold faculty council meetings and University Council meetings in English, and almost all communication is in English – then we think that you have gone too far. I also spoke to people yesterday who feel that this is at the expense of certain subjects in education. You can no longer talk about Vasalis (Dutch poet and psychiatrist, ed.) or about examples from Dutch local and national politics, because students cannot follow the Dutch.”


The language is not the only reason for international students to come to the Netherlands. “EU students, for example, can easily avail of student financing.” For a long time, the standard was that they had to work for 56 hours a month, but in September this was lowered to 32 hours. So even if the language is adapted, it is still likely that international students will come to Maastricht. Would Hertzberger have less of a problem with that if they study in Dutch? “Even there, you would have to find a balance.”

This won’t be so simple, she says. “You will have to take it easy. There are a lot of delicate collaborations, you have to deal with them carefully. You also have to ensure that you don’t go too far. We are not going to suddenly abolish all study programmes that are in English. In certain areas – such as IT, but also Biomedical Sciences – we want to keep them. We also have to take a look at the financing problem. At the moment, there is a perverse incentive for universities to keep growing. It would be better to use targeted funding to keep certain programmes that are important for the market and the region, even if at times there may be fewer students attending.”


Lastly, what else did Hertzberger notice during her visit to Maastricht? “I saw the ETpathfinder and was very impressed with it. I did not know that Maastricht was so strong in theoretical physics. I also heard that housing is a problem here too. The view is that it is not such a problem in the regions, but apparently it is a point here. I also feel that people could learn from how well collaborations take place here with other institutes, for example, with Chemelot and the university of applied sciences.”

Author: Cleo Freriks

Photo: Nieuw Sociaal Contract

Tags: internationalisation,international students,language policy,Dutch,English,Dutch politics,MP,Hertzberger,NSC

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