A good university is also international

It is a core task of Dutch universities to prepare all students well for their future: a career in our open, internationally oriented society and knowledge economy. All Dutch universities have therefore anchored an international perspective in their programmes.

For example, by highlighting scientific issues and societal challenges in an international context, by allowing Dutch students to follow part of their studies abroad and, conversely, by welcoming international students to their study programmes. An academic programme that does not offer an adequate international perspective lacks quality and relevance to the labour market and society. 

Balance is essential for the successful deployment of the international orientation of universities. There are three guiding principles: quality, customisation and inclusiveness.

First of all, there is no doubt in the minds of the universities that internationalisation must further strengthen the quality of education and research. Think of football clubs that strengthen themselves with players and coaches from abroad and thus raise the level of their club and the Dutch competition. Conversely, Dutch footballers often play for a while in a foreign league, develop themselves there and bring a wealth of experience with them when they return. Nowadays it is almost unthinkable that football clubs in the Eredivisie only play players from the Netherlands. The fact that this exchange, just like in football, is also interesting from an economic point of view - a foreign student who comes to study in the Netherlands, on balance, yields more for the Dutch economy than it costs - is a fine bycatch, but that's not what we want to do: it's about the national and international circulation of knowledge and talent.

Just as important is customization. Different disciplines and professions require different skills: some of the competences expected of a future lawyer are different from those expected of a future surgeon or astronomer. What they have in common is that in their field of work they will always come into contact with clients and colleagues from other countries and therefore need a global perspective. A doctor working in the Netherlands also treats patients from other countries, a lawyer also assists multinationals and SMEs with markets all over the world, and an astronomer not only looks across national borders, but studies the universe thanks to sharing knowledge and infrastructure with international partners. That is why we discuss for each discipline what accents are set in order to provide our students with the best possible training.

Finally, internationalisation and inclusiveness go hand in hand. The university must be open and accessible. In other words, open to all students and scientists: regardless of origin, status, religious or sexual orientation and whether your parents have studied or whether you are the first in your family to go to university. A diverse influx strengthens the quality of our study programmes and we do what is necessary to provide all students with the best possible guidance.

As rectors of Dutch universities, we do not close our eyes and ears to the concerns that exist in politics and society. Will students soon be able to express themselves well enough in Dutch, orally and in writing? Can a city or a region handle the influx of large numbers of foreign students? And certainly also: how do we ensure that Dutch students can study according to their ambitions and qualities and how do we prevent them from being pushed away by students from abroad?

We see these challenges and have worked hard on them. For example, we have intensified the programmes for Dutch language skills, both for Dutch and international students, and also for the bilingual and English-language programmes. As part of a broader effort to increase the number of housing units, we are working hard with the municipalities and housing corporations to create a sufficient number of student rooms. And a new law stipulates that we can select a maximum number of students for the English version of a bachelor's programme, while the Dutch version remains open. We would like to have more instruments to better manage an international and diverse intake.

The Netherlands is an open country and should remain so. We sincerely hope that politicians and government will also recognise this and that they will help us to find a good balance in our national and international orientation. Both are needed. Only then can we continue to prepare our students well for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow's society.


The rectors of the Dutch universities,

Prof.dr. Rutger Engels

Erasmus University Rotterdam

Prof.dr.ir. Frank Baaijens

Technical University Eindhoven

Prof.dr. Vinod Subramaniam

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Prof.dr.ir. Arthur Mol

Wageningen University

Prof.dr.ir. Karen Maex

University of Amsterdam

Prof.dr. Han van Krieken

Radboud University

Prof.dr. Rianne Letschert

Maastricht University

Prof.dr. Thom Palstra

University Twente

Prof. dr. Henk Kummeling

University Utrecht

Prof.dr. Theo Bastiaens

Open University

Prof. dr. Cisca Wijmenga

University of Groningen

Prof. dr. Klaas Sijtsma

Tilburg University

Prof.mr.dr. Carel Stolker

University Leiden

Prof.dr.ir. Tim van der Hagen

Technical University Delft