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Rectores magnifici of the Dutch universities: a good university is international too

The Netherlands is an open country and should remain so. This is what the rectores magnifici of the Dutch universities write in an opinion piece. Because academic training that does not provide enough of an international perspective lacks quality and relevance to the job market and society.

A core task of the Dutch universities is to prepare students for their future: a career in our open, internationally oriented society and knowledge economy. An international perspective is thus an integral aspect of the programmes at all of the Dutch universities. This is achieved by, for instance, placing academic issues and societal challenges in an international context, enabling Dutch students to follow part of their programme abroad and, conversely, welcoming international students to their programmes. An academic programme that does not offer enough of an international perspective lacks quality and relevance to the job market and society.

To successfully provide this international perspective, the universities must strike a balance. This is guided by the following three principles: quality, a tailored approach and inclusion.

Quality

To the universities, it is clear that internationalisation will further improve the quality of their teaching and research. A good analogy is how football clubs sign players and managers from abroad to improve the football at their club and in the Netherlands as a whole. And vice versa, Dutch footballers often spend time playing abroad to develop their skills, bringing, on their return, a wealth of experience with them. It is almost unthinkable nowadays that only Dutch players would play for Dutch Premier League clubs. And just like in football, the exchange of ‘players’ in higher education is also interesting from an economic perspective – international students who come to study in the Netherlands generate more for the Dutch economy than they cost. Although this is an added bonus, for us, it is not what it’s all about: for us, it’s about the national and international circulation of knowledge and talent. 

Tailored approach

A tailored approach is equally important. Different disciplines and careers require different skills: a future lawyer needs other competences than a future surgeon or astronomer. What they have in common, however, is that in their work they will always come into contact with clients and colleagues from different countries and will thus need a global perspective. A doctor working in the Netherlands will treat patients from other countries, a lawyer will work for multinationals and SMBs with markets all around the world and an astronomer will look not just beyond national borders but also into the universe thanks to the knowledge and infrastructure that they share with international partners. We therefore decide for each individual discipline where the emphasis needs to be placed to ensure that our students receive the best possible training.

Inclusion

Internationalisation and inclusion go hand in hand. A university has to be open and accessible. This means open to all students and academics, regardless their background, status, religious or sexual orientation or whether their parents themselves went to university or they are the first in the family to do so. A diverse university community improves the quality of our programmes. We do all we can to provide the best possible support to our students.

Language skills and accommodation

As rectores magnifici of the Dutch universities, we are not oblivious to the concerns of politicians and society. Will students still be able to express themselves properly in spoken and written Dutch? Can our cities or regions cope with the influx of international students? Equally, how do we ensure that Dutch students can follow a programme that matches their ambitions and abilities, and how do we make sure they are not pushed out by students from abroad?

We are aware of these challenges and are working hard to tackle them. We have intensified our Dutch language skills courses, for both Dutch and international students and both the bilingual and English-taught programmes. We are working closely with municipalities and housing associations to ensure that – as part of a wider effort to create more housing –enough student housing is available. And a new act means that we can set a maximum number of students for the English-taught version of a bachelor’s programme, whereas the Dutch-taught version will remain open. We would appreciate more tools to help us steer towards an international and diverse university community.

Open country

The Netherlands is an open country and should remain so. We hope that politicians and government also recognise this and will help us strike the right balance between a national and international orientation. Both are essential because only then can we continue to prepare our students for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow’s society.

The rectores magnifici of the Dutch universities

Prof. Rutger Engels
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Prof. Frank BaaijensEindhoven University of Technology

Prof. Vinod Subramaniam
VU Amsterdam

Prof. Arthur Mol
Wageningen University

Prof. Karen Maex
Universiteit of Amsterdam

Prof. Han van Krieken
Radboud University

Prof. Rianne Letschert
Maastricht University

Prof. Thom Palstra
University of Twente

Prof. Henk Kummeling
Utrecht University

Prof. Theo Bastiaens
Open University

Prof. Cisca Wijmenga
University of Groningen

Prof. Klaas Sijtsma
Tilburg University

Prof. Carel Stolker
Leiden University

Prof. Tim van der Hagen
Delft University of Technology

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