Portretfoto van rector Han van Krieken
Portretfoto van rector Han van Krieken

Debate on internationalisation in higher education - Column Han van Krieken

Last Thursday, a debate on internationalisation took place between Minister Dijkgraaf and the Education Committee of the House of Representatives. In autumn, we will have some clarity on what changes we can expect by September 2025. It is clear that the House of Representatives has some major concerns about Dutch as an academic language and about the large number of international students currently studying in the Netherlands, with housing shortages and potential displacement of Dutch students from English-language study programmes with a numerus fixus.

This debate is causing a stir, which is why the Radboud University Executive Board is eager to communicate that international students and staff will continue to be welcome. We feel that they add value and bring a range of experiences and insights through their diverse backgrounds that benefit our teaching and research. Radboud University consciously opts for multilingualism in its strategy, which is why many Dutch-language study programmes include courses taught in English, sometimes in the form of books and other texts, but often also with the help of lecturers from many different countries. However, until now it was not clear what percentage of a Dutch-language study programme could be taught in another language (usually English). In the course of the debate, Minister Dijkgraaf indicated that he was thinking of approximately one third. Conversely, parts of an English-language study programme could also be taught in a language other than English. In all likelihood, the one-third cap will have only limited consequences for current study programmes at Radboud University. However, it will become more difficult to launch new study programmes in English, even if they clearly have added value.

The debate also included requests for direction and questions concerning the maximum percentages of international students. The focus in this context was on Bachelor's programmes. With 11% international students and more than 70% Dutch-speaking Bachelor's programmes, the situation in Nijmegen is in no way imbalanced. However, the Executive Board is concerned that attending international fairs is not possible at present, making it more difficult to attract the right students to Nijmegen.

Radboud University considers language skills to be of great importance. Since 2018, the University has set out in a policy plan the extra opportunities it offers students and employees to further improve their language skills. Since the start of this academic year, we introduced a language test for all first-year Bachelor's students, and the results show that we need to pay attention to written and oral academic language skills, both in terms of comprehension and in terms of communication. There are several ways to improve language levels. We will undoubtedly focus on this more in the coming years, which is good.

The internationalisation debate is relevant, sometimes takes place on the cutting edge, and can have serious implications for academic education in the Netherlands. Newspapers and news sites are full of information about it. Please also refer to the UNL website for the position of the Dutch Universities. I hope that this debate will not result in the loss of the valuable effects of internationalising part of academic education. At the same time, I feel a responsibility to strengthen academic Dutch where necessary. It is my conviction that in a system with a diversity of excellent universities, such as the one we have in our country, we can strike a good balance between relevant internationalisation and attention to Dutch as an important language in Dutch academia. 

Han van Krieken is rector magnificus and member of the executive board of Radboud University. Members of the executive board regularly write a column/ 

Contact information

Organizational unit
Executive Board