Public Consultation on Law Bill on Internationalisation Open Till 15 September

Public Consultation on Law Bill on Internationalisation Open Till 15 September

Proposal Intends to Limit Number of English-language Courses in Dutch Institutions

The Dutch government has launched an online public consultation on the proposal for a new law which seeks to limit the number of English-language higher education courses offered in the Netherlands. The consultation is open to everyone and can be accessed until 15 September. People who visit the website can also leave comments expressing their views.

According to article 7.2 of the bill, at least two-thirds of the total number of credits in an associate degree programme or bachelor’s programme must be taught in Dutch. However, the announced measures will only be applied to institutions that receive funding from the Dutch government, which is not Wittenborg’s case, since it is a privately funded business school. This has been confirmed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, in a letter recently sent to the institution.

The President of Wittenborg, Peter Birdsall, explained that the Ministry’s letter was sent in response to a former communication by the school, which highlighted the vital role played by internationalisation in the Netherlands, including its importance for the country’s education system and economy.

Among other arguments, Wittenborg’s letter states that “… the importance of international students is that they bring the world together, and that is a responsibility the western / developed countries should carry primarily. Cutting back on the number of foreign students coming to the Netherlands sends the wrong signal, it is much better to solve the (perceived) related problems, nationally and internationally. Anti-internationalism goes completely against ‘our’ Dutch liberalism and is completely unnatural to the Netherlands.”

Moreover, the document underlines that over 75% of the international students in the Netherlands come from within the European Union and cannot be refused entry into the country’s higher education, and Dutch taxpayers must pay for their education in the same way as for Dutch students. Non-European students, in turn, are not funded by the Dutch taxpayer, at least not directly, and the numbers of non-EU international students are relatively small compared to the Europeans, and on the scale of other countries.

Birdsall encourages international students to vote in the public consultation and express their views on the proposed law on the designated website. “There are several ways this can go. For example, if the proposal is not seen as controversial, it will continue going on under the decommissioned cabinet, after the general election. However, if the bill gets a lot of backlash against it, it might be deemed controversial by the second chamber when they vote on it in September. If that’s the case, the new government will have to decide on whether they want to continue with that or not.”

Criticisms to the bill

On the public consultation’s website, various users, including students and lecturers, have left comments criticising the bill.

A person who identifies as an international student contends that “… the proposed bill jeopardises the quality and openness of Dutch higher education and cannot address the stated problems, such as the housing crisis and the labour market crisis. Moreover, it looks discriminatory towards the most vulnerable student group.”

According to a lecturer from a large Dutch university, “this law, as currently being proposed, jeopardises the position of the Netherlands in research and education and threatens to put the country at a disadvantage in the creation, dissemination and use of knowledge. In short: the Dutch knowledge economy is at risk. It is built on wrong assumptions and does not address the underlying problems, but creates new problems that will make our country substantially poorer.”

Another user comments that “there are two main issues that are not openly considered when we talk about this law. First, it fails to take into account the large number of programs that rely on international teachers who are unable to adapt to the requirements of this law in the proposed period, and more importantly, the law does not propose any action to address it. Moreover, the competition for talent in some fields, such as artificial intelligence, will not allow higher education institutions to replace teachers so easily with Dutch-speaking teachers.”

WUP 13/8/2023
by Ulisses Sawczuk
©WUAS Press