Student - August 13, 2019

Will the numbers of international students drop with NESO offices closing?

Albert Sikkema

Following budget cuts, Nuffic will be closing ten regional offices in various countries, including Mexico, China and South Africa. The offices provide international students with information regarding Dutch education. Will the closure lead to fewer international students in Wageningen? Renske van Dijk, international marketeer at WUR, does not expect it will come to that.

Presentation on Dutch education at the NESO office in Vietnam. © Flickr

Nuffic is the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education. Nuffic has a Netherlands Education Support Office (NESO) in ten countries, including Mexico, South Africa and India.

‘In practice, I only work with some of the NESO offices’, says Van Dijk. ‘We often work with the office in Mexico, which also reaches Latin American countries. We do not collaborate that much with the one in China, because we have our own support on location. In most countries that have a NESO office, we have many alumni who advise us and provide information concerning our programmes. We do not get many students from Russia, so we don't work much with the NESO office there either.’

What do the NESO offices do in terms of promotion?

‘They organise events about Dutch higher education and the programmes Dutch universities offer, and they advise students on admission criteria and costs and assist with the acquisition of scholarships. The offices also regularly create country profiles that support our online recruitment campaigns. So they are especially useful to those who know what they want.’

Is there also any criticism directed at the NESO?

‘The actions of the NESO are a bit elusive for the universities. A few years ago, Nuffic opened offices in South Africa and Turkey, countries that are less interesting from the point of view of international students. The universities did indicate that, but Nuffic still opened the offices. Perhaps this is in some way connected to the extensive range of their duties, as the NESO offices also aim to improve the capacity of universities.’

Will the closure lead to decreasing numbers of international students?

‘That is unclear, because we do not know how many students enter through the NESO offices. I do expect an effect in areas where we have fewer alumni, like Latin America, for example. But much is still unclear about the closures. There will perhaps be educational attaches at the Dutch embassies who can cover part of the work for the NESO offices.’

Does this mean the consequences will not be too serious?

‘I am particularly concerned about the political signal being sent by the Dutch government, which seems to be that they consider internationalisation to be less and less important. Everything that is happening implies that people no longer want to see growth of international students or English-language education programmes. In this political climate, the NESO offices are being closed and the scholarships for international students are under pressure. It’s a pity, because we desperately need a diverse group of international students in Wageningen to fulfil our mission.’

More information about the closure of the NESO offices and the replies of Nuffic and others are available here (in Dutch).