Wittenborg Vindicated: Dutch Research Universities Found to be Registering Unqualified International Students Through Pathway Programmes For Visa

Wittenborg Vindicated: Dutch Research Universities Found to be Registering Unqualified International Students Through Pathway Programmes For Visa

Dutch Research Universities Found to be Registering Unqualified International Students Through Pathway Programmes For Visa

"Wittenborg has not yet received an answer to its letter informing the Minister that Research Universities were incorrectly recruiting unqualified international students and at the same time discriminating against Dutch 'Havo' school levers. The Minister requested the National Commission to investigate and they have now confirmed that Dutch Research Universities are unjustly registering non-qualified international students to the university in order to apply for a student visa, even though these students actually don't study at the university. We shall be asking the Minister to enforce the law." Peter Birdsall, President WUAS. 

National Commission Upholds Wittenborg's Complaint over Fast-Tracking of International Students into Public Universities

More than a year after WUAS called on Dutch education authorities to look into allegations that recruitment agencies are fast-tracking international students into research universities despite not having a qualification that is equivalent to the national requirement, Wittenborg's claim has now been justified. 

The National Commission for the Code of Conduct for International Students in Dutch Higher Education has now issued a report after investigating the matter, saying it was brought to its attention by Wittenborg, who not only petitioned the Ministry for Education, Culture and Science, but also laid it bare in publications such as Onderwijsblad, a publication of the AOb, the Netherlands’ biggest teachers' union.

Agencies are allegedly recruiting international students who do not qualify for admission to Dutch universities, offering them a costly “transition-year programme”, which is then taken care of by the agencies themselves. However, to comply with the requirements of a study permit, students are registered at partnering universities.

Among them are students who do not have the equivalent of a VWO diploma – the general criteria for admission to a research university in the Netherlands. The high school diploma in many countries like China, Indonesia and Russia only meet the Dutch HAVO-level, which is not eligible for entry into a research university.

Undesirable Situation

The commission has now concluded that universities should make a closer evaluation in estimating whether a student who enters the transition-year programme will actually pass and start with the programme he or she intended. "Our investigation has revealed that 24% of these students don't make it. The commission is of the opinion that based on the definition in the Code of Conduct, some of these private transition programme providers, do in fact act as agents judging by some of their activities. We are asking ourselves if this is a desirable situation.

"In the agreements made between institutions and providers, the latter are among other things responsible for the development of marketing material and the website, but also for the provision of information, the evaluation of admission criteria, the registration of students, evaluating their progress, the handling of student complaints and their overall welfare." The commission emphasised that these activities must to a sufficient extent take place under the oversight and within the influence sphere of the universities or institutions.

Stringent Policies Must Be Developed

The commission recommended that more stringent policies be developed – based on quality control in education – when it comes to recruiting students who do not yet qualify for admission to universities.

It also asked that institutions be "clearer" in their policies in which way the admissibility of students is determined.

The commission limited its investigating to three private providers who act on behalf of 8 Dutch institutions in taking care of their transition-year programmes. These are OnCampus (on behalf of the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), Navitas (on behalf of the University of Twente and the Hague University of Applied Sciences), and Study Group (on behalf of the University of Tilburg, the Erasmus University and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen). Navitas is Australian. OnCampus and Study Group are UK based.

Tags: VSNU, Research Universities, International Students, National Commission

WUP 20/6/2020
by Anesca Smith
©WUAS Press