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Executive Board column: Limiting the intake of international students?

Several Dutch universities have said they do not want foreign student numbers to grow any more in some of their degree programmes. They are reaching maximum capacity. We are also alert to this in Leiden, but I see many positive aspects to the intake of international students.

In this column Annetje Ottow, Hester Bijl and Martijn Ridderbos give a peek behind the scenes at the Executive Board of Leiden University. What does their work involve? What makes them enthusiastic? What challenges do they face? Building a healthy and engaged learning community begins with sharing what you are up to. This time it’s Hester Bijl’s turn.

At present, the international student intake is not a problem here. Compared to other universities we have relatively few English-taught bachelor’s programmes. The percentage of foreign students has increased slightly in recent years, from just under to just above 20 per cent in the bachelor’s programmes and from just under to just above 30 per cent in the master’s programmes.

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) wants to start a pilot with a quota for international students in its Psychology and Political Science programmes. This should give more Dutch students the opportunity to take these popular degree programmes. This is not an issue for us, although we are reaching the limit of the number of students we can train for the master’s specialisation in Clinical Psychology. After this specialisation, they have to do further training and that’s where things go wrong. We feel bad if we train a lot of students who then have to wait years for a place on the follow-up course.

More flexibility

At the moment we do not have a tool to select students (Dutch or international) for a degree programme. A fixed quota applies to all specialisations within a programme. And we don’t want that because there is still room in some Psychology specialisations. So we need more flexibility to select students for certain specialisations and would like the legal powers to do so.

‘We would also like the opportunity to limit the group of international students should that be necessary.’

We would also like the opportunity to limit the group of international students should that be necessary. Many people around the world would like to go to university. If they suddenly want to study in Leiden, we then have a problem. And it is very important that our national students can also get a place at university.

Talent needed

So we are constantly alert to the international student intake. But I see international students as a crucial part of our academic community. We work together with many other universities and international partners, and an international community is part of this, also within the student population. And foreign students also contribute to knowledge generation and the Dutch economy. We really need their talent, especially in disciplines such as data science because there are not enough people for this in the Netherlands. There are so many global challenges that it is only an advantage that our students already work with people with different backgrounds, nationalities and perspectives.

Share your thoughts on this column by sending an email to nieuws@leidenuniv.nl.

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