Students Need Proof of Language Ability to Apply for Study Visa
The Dutch government set the ball rolling to help prospective international students unable to do an English language test – a prerequisite when applying for a study visa – due to COVID-19 restrictions in many of their home countries. Most students do an IELTS or TOEFL at a test centre, but as many of these centres around the world have closed, students found themselves stuck. The Dutch department of education is now working on a solution with the National Commission for the Code of Conduct for International Students in Dutch Higher Education that might enable students to do the test online.
Disaster for some Dutch universities?
If a solution is not found, this could spell disaster for the Netherlands' September intake of international students. Therefore, a provisional directive was issued on Thursday by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. It will be updated as details are thrashed out. The idea is to limit the damage caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus on the education sector.
Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences is one of the institutions that has petitioned the commission to temporarily lift the requirement that international students prove they have sufficient command of the English by submitting the results of a normal IELTS/TOEFL language test as part of their application to study in the Netherlands.
Wittenborg's chair of the executive board, Peter Birdsall, wrote that most of the test centres around the world have been closed in light of the COVID-19 virus and prospective international students now barely have any means of completing the test. There is no possibility of doing an online IELTS test, and in the case of TOEFL online testing is limited to a handful of countries.
"Provisional admission to an institution of higher education does not resolve anything for Wittenborg as students need to have completed the test in order to apply for a residence permit and to be fully admitted."
About 90% of Wittenborg students are international and about 80% are from non-EU/EE areas. International students are required to apply for admission at least 6–8 weeks before their intended start date and results of the IELTS/TOEFL tests must be obtained before application.
'Some universities will have difficulties'
Birdsall warned there will be disastrous consequences for some Dutch higher educational institutions that seem to reply on a large influx of international students, should the language requirement as worded in the code of conduct not be adapted and alternative arrangements sought.
"Should the intake of new students for September dry up because Clause 4.2 of the Code of Conduct remains unchanged, business operations at many international departments at many universities will be brought in danger with far-reaching consequences. For instance, the University of Amsterdam, and its relationship with the private company OnCampus for international intake, might be challenged, as will the University of Twente that seems reliant for much of its international intake through its private partner Navitas."
Birdsall added, "Wittenborg has a more agile approach to higher education - we have six intakes a year, so if our new students can't arrive to start in September, they will be able to do so in October, or in December. Our six-entry-a-year carrousel system for bachelor's and master's is key now!"
As an alternative, Wittenborg also proposed in the letter the possibly of doing its own in-house, online testing for the time being. "Wittenborg has sufficient capacity and qualified staff to determine the English abilities of students and conduct an online test." It also asks that the period for the validity of the IELTS test be extended for students who wish to switch between institutions (transfer students).
Current Update: The result today is that the Code of Conduct has been temporarily adapted to now include the online test @home version of TOEFL.
According to a spokesperson of the university, WUAS will publish its own language testing policy on Easter Monday, along with a new COVID-19 communique.
by Anesca Smith & Others
©Wittenborg University Press