In just over a month, on 15 March 2017, the Dutch will go to voting polls – thereby kicking off a year of crucial elections in Europe amidst a rise in far-right sentiments on the continent, which could have far-reaching implications for international students.
This week one of the main political parties in the election race, D66, hosted a discussion on lifelong learning at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences.
Among the attendees was Kees Verhoeven, D66 member of the Dutch parliament, who has been quite vocal this week on fears that the election results might be compromised due to cyber hacking. Though the Dutch government has in the meantime announced it will not solely rely on election software as all results will also be counted by hand, Verhoeven still feels they could have acted sooner. He told the New York Times: “The elections will be held in 6 weeks and only now the minister sees that the software is not secure.” He nonetheless welcomed the move.
On Monday evening, at a well-attended meeting, Verhoeven was part of a panel at Wittenborg debating the question of lifelong learning. He was joined by D66 Apeldoorn councillor, Marco Wenzkowski and Nicolet Theunissen (executive D66 member in Apeldoorn) who led the discussion as well as Wittenborg CEO Maggie Feng. Many Wittenborg students also attended.
Wenzkowski said the goal of the discussion was to share information on lifelong learning and interesting ideas were presented, which will be used to inform D66 policy on the matter. “There is an ongoing discussion on how the content taught at universities and other institutes of higher education relates to the needs of commercial companies.”
According to him, D66 values the potential contribution of international students to the Dutch economy and society. “We can learn from them as they add to the existing knowledge on conducting business internationally.” D66 also supports attracting more institutes of higher education and businesses in Apeldoorn. “It is good for the city, and bringing higher knowledge to Apeldoorn also facilitates the businesses we have here.”
On how he thinks D66 will perform in the coming elections, Wenzkowski said he believes the party will garner the second or third most votes in the country. “We have a coalition government in the VVD and PvDA and the past 4 years we have worked with them to make the country a better place for all. I think the voters will appreciate that we are working with instead of fighting the cabinet on critical issues.”
On lifelong learning, Feng said the top skill of everyone should be to be a “quick and effective” learner. “The quicker and more effective you are, the more flexible it makes you, and therefore your employability prospects are lasting.”
Also on the panel was Céline Blom, vice-chair of D66 Gelderland, Theo Burghout (Development Advisor at Hollander Techniek), Elske Akkermans from Apeldoorn Stagestad, René van der Weerd from Permanent Future Lab Apeldoorn, Wim Hoetmer of the Veluwse Onderwijsgroep Apeldoorn and Bram Wattel from the Apeldoorn Gemeente.
by Anesca Smith
©Wittenborg University Press