Is Amsterdam admitting too many international students?
Straining the city's housing system. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The rise in international student numbers in the last decade, straining city housing and course availability for Dutch students, has prompted the University of Amsterdam to seek help to curb their influx.

In a speech during UA’s 386th anniversary, university rector Karen Maex spoke about the internationalisation of higher education and what it means for universities.

While defending the importance of an international classroom, Maex asked whether Dutch universities are striking the “optimal balance” in them, which should be looked at from three levels: 1) the balance between Dutch and international students; 2) the balance between English and Dutch in the wider university environment; 3) the balance between programmes in Dutch and in English.

This year saw an eight percent increase in the number of international students. At UA, their numbers have quadrupled from a decade ago, making up 15 percent in its student body. 70 percent of international students at the AU are from the European Union (EEA). Among first-year students, that figure rises to 25 percent thanks to several new English-taught Bachelor’s programme, according to Maex.

Study In Holland noted during the academic year, the country saw the highest number international students enrolled ever, with 112,000 bachelor- and master students in total from 164 different nationalities. German students make up the bulk of the international student body with 22,189 students, followed by China (4,347) and Italy (3,347).

“You can imagine that this growth – especially when it is sudden – produces considerable challenges as well as some pressing questions,” she said.

She calls for the university to reach toward certain goals, such as attracting the right talent, improving quality of education and offering the right programmes.

“… growth is not the goal, large numbers are not the goal, money is not the goal.”

The university can work towards this by firstly, striking a balance between programmes in Dutch and English – it should decide between promoting English-taught courses with specific learning objectives or Dutch-taught courses with a touch of English. This will have ramifications on the resilience on the Dutch language as a medium of education.

Secondly, it should make it possible to control the inflow of international students.

“Can you imagine a lecture hall in the future consisting of 80 percent of students from Germany, or from China? This is not in line with what we have in mind for an international classroom. It would not contribute to our goals,” Maex said.

Maex suggests that current admissions criteria, which are based on credentials and language level, also include a consideration for the diversity composition in the classrooms. The city should also provide more student housing and the university will continue to contribute solutions to this end.

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