WAU internationalisation strategy weak
At the opening ceremony for the new academic year, Monday 1st September, Rector Cees Karssen stated that WAU aims to double the number of MSc students in the next few years. According to course director Wim Heijman, the only way to achieve this is through a coordinated policy on student recruitment
Heijman, course director of the Agricultural Economics programme, is sceptical about the Rector's plans. It's not the first time I've heard this from the Rector. It's become something of a ritual; each year someone calls for more to be done about internationalisation. The trouble is that it never gets further than words. According to Heijman the University lacks an effective strategy for attracting more students
For the last few years the number of MSc students has fluctuated around the 225 mark. The University has ample capacity for more students in terms of buildings and personnel. There is also no lack of demand. Each year approximately 45 students pass the entrance exam for Agricultural Economics. The problem is money. I have only four grants available, and many students from poor countries can only take up their place if they get financial help.
In Heijman's opinion the University should tap the pool of students from the fast-growing economies of Southeast Asia, who can pay for their study themselves
In order to attract these groups it is important that the University is well-informed about the specific circumstances in each country where it wants to recruit students. Heijman recounts that the Chinese living in Malaysia are keen on sending their children abroad for university education. Many people engage an education broker to find a suitable course for their child. The University here has no contact with these brokers, but I believe it is essential to build up a network. I'm going on my own initiative to an education fair in Malaysia to establish contacts. Head Office is doing nothing in this direction.
I even have to pay for these activities out of my own budget. WAU talks a lot about internationalisation but at the same time they are putting the squeeze on the programme directors financially. There used to be a budget, but this is no longer the case. Anyway, we should be concentrating more on education than on recruitment. If the University is serious about international education it needs to invest more money in a good marketing strategy. Heijmans believes that a good way of reaching more students would be to set up an outreach programme. This would involve sending a number of WAU teachers abroad to give courses in other countries. One advantage of doing it this way is that you can involve local teachers in a programme. It's not as though we have a monopoly on knowledge: local teachers can provide much more information on local conditions.
According to Heijmans the problem is not that people don't know about Wageningen University. We have managed to flood nearly the whole world with brochures and information. What's missing in Heijmans' opinion is a coordinated policy for bringing the students to Wageningen. The University internationalisation policy is exceedingly weak. There is nobody in the Head Office with clear responsibility for recruiting students. The Dean's Office does an excellent job of administration, but they have no idea how to attract international students. Nobody knows exactly who should start the ball rolling.
Will Knuiman, from the Dean's Office, agrees with Heijmans that a better recruitment policy is needed. The problem is that we don't have enough people to get the recruiting going. What's more, the people that we do have are spread thinly. This has meant that in the past many projects with good ideals have been started by a few enthusiastic people. Only in the last few years have we begun to realise that a professional approach is necessary. A marketing group has now been set up to improve the situation. They should come up with a plan in the near future for attracting more students.
Course: Meeting the Netherlands
For MSc students who want to learn more about the Dutch and their country, or those whose appetites were whetted during their introductory week, the Department of Rural History has developed a course that caters for this need. The course is called Meeting the Netherlands: a historical acquaintance (C300-212). For many, their 17-month stay in The Netherlands will cause a culture shock. The Department devised this short course to offer MSc students a more structured way of understanding the society where they have ended up. In terms of study credits, this is a one credit subject. During the course of 12 lessons the MSc students will learn about the wide variety of landscapes and general historical developments, including the role of the church, population growth, urbanisation, economic developments and a short history of Dutch agriculture. The programme will close with a trip to the Open Air Museum in Arnhem, about 20 kilometres from Wageningen. This museum portrays the variety in traditional, rural life in the Netherlands. A syllabus entitled The Netherlands. A history in thirteen pictures will be available at the beginning of the course and costs f. 10,-. Lessons start at 19.30 and last until 21.30. They will be given in Room 64 in the Leeuwenborch building, Hollandseweg 1. The course starts on Tuesday 23rd September. Information: Jan Bieleman, Department of Rural History. Tel. 484027