A group of entrepreneurs based in Groningen have voiced concerns over the plans of Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science Robbert Dijkgraaf to reduce the use of English at the country’s universities and colleges, saying it will restrict the influx of international talent into the economy and damage the country’s long-term prospects.
“We need international talent just as much as we need local talent,” writes Yeelen Knegtering, CEO of Klippa, a company that specializes in automated document processing. “It would be a mistake to impose these kinds of restrictions on the current labour market, where a shortage of labour continues to limit the productivity and growth of businesses. And I’m not just talking about the tech sector.”
Knegtering says that a shortage of highly skilled labor is a serious and growing problem in the Netherlands. Restricting the influx of talented people is an inappropriate measure that will affect both the northern Netherlands and the rest of the country, he believes.
Knegtering’s entrepeneur colleagues concur. Tjarda Polderman, a private lead at Founded in Groningen, a platform for innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups in the northern provinces says: “If we curb the anglicisation of study programmes, we’ll run the risk of alienating talented people who could contribute meaningfully to our economy.”
Curbs on the use of English send out a message that “we’re not open to start-ups with international staff,” she concludes.
“I’m convinced that the government should reconsider the plans to limit English-language courses,” says Alex van Ginneken, president of the Noordelijke Online Ondernemers, an umbrella organization for online companies in the north. “Let’s acknowledge the value of internationalisation of our education and not miss the opportunity to secure the Netherlands’ future in a world that’s becoming increasingly global.”
Earlier, the University of Groningen said that, if implemented, Dijkgraaf’s plans will have major consequences for international students and staff in the Netherlands.
In an official statement posted on its website, the school said the proposed measures may jeopardize its position as “a leading university which is firmly rooted in Groningen and which is a knowledge partner of choice for partners in our region, the Netherlands, Europe, and the world.” The university fears Dijkgraaf’s proposals “could mean a limitation of our autonomy to an extent we have not seen in the past 409 years of our existence.”
Two months ago, Dijkgraaf sent a three-page letter to the presidents of higher education institutions as part of the ongoing talks between the education ministry and the umbrella organisations – the Universities of the Netherlands and the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences – regarding the sector’s international recruitment strategies. The education minister, in an apparent bid to control the flow of international students, told the universities and colleges they should stop recruiting students abroad because of concerns around housing, shortage of study facilities, and the growing workload for academic staff.
In the 2021-22 academic year, 115,000 international students were enrolled at Dutch universities, of whom more than 42,000 started their studies for the first time in the country, data from the CBS statistics bureau suggests.
Over the past 16 years, the Netherlands has witnessed a more massive increase in international students compared to local students.