In a letter to parliament, the Dutch minister of education, Jet Bussemaker, has singled out Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences as a good example of an institute with an unequivocal international character.
Wittenborg is one of the most international institutes of higher education in the Netherlands, boasting 80 different nationalities among its 600-strong student population this year.
In Bussemaker's letter, addressed to parliament's House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer), she states that "internationalisation must become the norm". The 13-page letter is an update on her vision statement from 2014 about internationalisation in Dutch higher education for the period until 2025.
The minister says that while many educational institutes have made concrete efforts towards promoting outward mobility among students, Wittenborg is one step ahead. "Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences has even taken it a step further and has an international character across the board," Bussemaker wrote. A footnote explains that two-thirds of management at Wittenborg have an international background, 50% of its academic and support staff comes from abroad, and more than 75% of its students are international.
Bussemaker visited Wittenborg's headquarters in Apeldoorn two years ago, where she got first-hand experience in talking with management and meeting international students.
"I am convinced that the Dutch education system should produce citizens who are self-aware, out-of-the box thinkers and doers who bring change through their guts and ambition. That means that we will expect more from our students - more from their academic and professional attitude, more from their expertise and their ability to be team players, more from their sense of social responsibility, creativity and imagination. All the elements in this ambition of ours have an international dimension. Being ready for the job market means being ready to join the growing global labour market."
Bussemaker believes experience abroad takes the student out of his or her comfort zone. However, growth in the number of Dutch students doing a study stint abroad is still limited and the minister wants to boost this. At the same time she said internationalisation can also take place "at home" in Holland, by means of, for instance, the international classroom. "Scholarship programmes like the Holland Scholarship Programme can contribute to diversity in international classrooms. With a good mix of nationalities - and the right didactics - you create a rich learning environment where students can pick up intercultural competencies."
Extract from the letter (in Dutch):
"Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences is bijvoorbeeld nog een stap verder gegaan en heeft over de hele linie een internationaal karakter. Ik zie dat internationalisering dus ook op een waardevolle manier onderdeel kan uitmaken van het profiel van een instelling."
"Bij Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences heeft 2/3 van het management een internationale achtergrond, is 50% van de docenten en medewerkers van internationale afkomst en studeren 75% internationale studenten uit meer dan 70 landen."
Bussemaker's complete letter to parliament, entitled "De waarde(n) van de wereld - Voortgangsbrief over de internationale dimensie van ho en mbo" can be found here:
by Anesca Smith
©Wittenborg University Press