Wetenschap - 1 februari 1996

Board writes itsfirst English memo

Board writes itsfirst English memo

International education is potentially an important growth area for WAU. Over the past few years the number of Dutch students has dropped. Although this decrease has now come to a standstill and numbers are even rising slightly, previous levels will not be reached again," says Raymond Florax, chair of the University Council.


The Ministries of both Education and of Agriculture are encouraging us to further develop international education, but they do not provide extra funds for this," explains Rector Karssen. He adds that the limited availability of fellowships is also a major restricting financial factor preventing an increase in the number of foreign students.

Tuesday January 23rd ISP held a meeting with several university representatives to exchange opinions and discuss the position of international education and students at WAU. Martha Bloemberg, coordinator of the platform of MSc programme directors, points out that fellowships are only open to students from outside the European Union and the USA. Students at European universities can study at WAU on an exchange basis without paying extra money. A similar agreement will be made with the USA. The number of these students is increasing as well.

Bloemberg likens WAU to a big tree where international education is a side branch, grafted onto the main stem. She argues that the main communication and policy making passes through the main stem without seriously considering the side branch. Karssen admits that most teachers and Dutch students have little involvement in international education and therefore have little motivation to contribute. Jan den Dulk, secretary of the Standing Committee on Education, agrees with this. Den Dulk explains that MSc students only amount to 6% of the total student population and that the MSc education is regarded as a kind of private activity of this university. Educational standards, finances and management of the Dutch study programmes are largely subject to Dutch law, but this is not the case for international education at WAU. Den Dulk believes that international education is very important, however, and he would favour strengthening its position. Both Den Dulk and Florax argue that the possibi
lity of creating a separate institute for international education should be looked into seriously.

Language

Bloemberg stresses that language is an extremely important factor: If you want to internationalise, first of all you have to become accessible." Bloemberg explains that it is not only necessary to make the education programmes English language based, but the policy and decision making structures should also function in English, so that foreign students can participate on an equal footing with their Dutch colleagues. On this subject Karssen relates that this week the Executive Board will issue a memorandum on international education. This will be the first memorandum ever which is directly written in English, and not translated from Dutch. ISP members felt that it is not only a language issue but also a cultural one. According to some of them it takes some time to get used to the Dutch way of discussing and decision making. Around the time of graduation one is just getting used to it. Ideally the distribution between foreign and Dutch students would be fifty-fifty, creating a t
ruly international culture at the university.

Library

I understand that Amsterdam and Leiden Universities have extended the opening hours of their libraries, so if Wageningen wants to be a top university as we claim to be, we can't afford to lag behind," says Rector Karssen. Once again ISP stressed the need to open the central library Kopshuis during evening hours. Besides providing a quiet place to study, international students would also like to be able to look for literature. During daytime the study schedule is often too tight to allow time to search for books in the library. Besides, during the evening the student corridors are often quite noisy, so a quiet place to read and study would be welcome. Opening up or providing access to departments in general is not feasible for security reasons. Rector Karssen, however, was supportive of the idea of extending the library's opening hours and promised to look into the issue. The main restriction is financial, since it would involve extra working hours for staff.

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