International students may have to learn Dutch to study here

April 21, 2023  -International students in the Netherlands are to be encouraged to learn Dutch and their numbers will be restricted in some courses, under long-awaited plans published by education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf on Friday afternoon. Universities and MPs have called on the minister to take action, following the surge in foreign students, who account for 40% of current first year undergraduates. In all, 115,000 international students attended a degree course in the Netherlands last academic year, 3.5 times the 2005 total.

Dijkgraaf said he is to ask universities and colleges to strengthen the use of Dutch in their institutions and will give them more options to limit numbers on popular courses, including those which are not taught in Dutch. The minister also wants to be able to restrict the numbers of non-EU students applying for course with a fixed number of places to make sure Dutch and EU students are not disadvantaged. ‘It good for both society and the Dutch knowledge-based economy that Dutch students can study abroad and that international students can come here,’ he said. ‘But it must remain possible to manage the numbers where needed. Without brakes we will end up with overflowing lecture theatres, high pressure on teaching staff and a lack of housing.’

Dutch skills In particular, Dijkgraaf says universities and colleges must promote Dutch language skills among both domestic and international students. This, he says, will boost their chances on the jobs market and make it more likely that foreign students will stay in the Netherlands after completing their studies. The minister is now working on new legislation which will anchor a mandatory Dutch-language component for foreign-language courses in law. ‘Dutch is, and will remain, the main language and the exemptions will be better defined,’ according to an education ministry press statement. The legislation will not come into affect before start of the 2024 academic year at the earliest. Housing Universities and colleges will also be encouraged to use Dutch as their working language and to give international students good information about finding accommodation. Last year, several universities called on foreign students not to come unless they had found somewhere to live. In addition, Dijkgraaf says he is to make agreements with colleges and universities on measures to help them better manage the flow of foreign students. For example, they should only actively recruit students abroad for fields of work in which there skill shortages.

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