Wetenschap - 7 maart 1996

Msc students sought after for development work

Msc students sought after for development work

A significant difference between regular and MSc students is that the majority of foreign students are already employed in their home countries and will return to their jobs after graduation. This is in contrast to Dutch students who are seeking a career in development co-operation and competing for scarce jobs -- jobs for which MSc-level students also seem to be more and more in demand.


Because of the emergence of international education programmes in Europe and the United States and the improvement of local educational facilities, local experts are gradually filling in jobs which were originally occupied by Western employees", says Rob van Heusden from WAU's Alumni office.

The Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation advises consultancy firms and organisations working on development programmes in the South to hire more personnel in the country itself. Mr Bijvoet from this Ministry estimates that about 10% of the personnel in development programmes executed by Dutch organisations are local employees. He relates that the ideal situation would be if all qualified personnel would be available locally. He explains: In many Asian and Latin American countries an increasing number of capable candidates are becoming available, but in several African countries this is, unfortunately, not the case." According to Bijvoet the Ministry's policy is following the existing trend. He mentions several advantages for hiring personnel locally: They have more knowledge about the local situation and culture. This policy is more sensitive compared to bringing in the umpteenth Western expatriate. And finally it is, of course, cheaper."

Bijvoet tells that in addition to this advice, the Ministry increasingly invests in educational programmes and provides scholarships for foreign students. He concludes: Furthermore, consultancy firms and contractors in the South can tender for bilateral development projects of the Ministry. Although the majority are still executed by Dutch companies, most of these have long-term cooperation agreements with local firms." De Wild from Euroconsult, a Dutch consultancy firm, affirms this trend. He adds that a year ago they established Eurolatina, an affiliate firm in El Salvador, which is fully staffed by Salvadorians.

International vacancies

Els Stassen works at the Department of Personnel Affairs of the Dutch Development Organisation SNV and keeps track of the situation on the labour market. SNV is one of the major organisations involved in development cooperation and employs about 600 people working abroad, of which 100 are now contracted locally, whereas ten years ago only Dutch people were hired. She discloses that SNV nowadays gives a preference to hiring local personnel.

She continues: The contents of the international vacancies has changed considerably over the past years. Specific knowledge still is very important, but most vacant jobs nowadays are in the field of management, coordination of programmes and policy making. That is also the reason why we require more work experience from applicants than before. Sometimes it is quite difficult to fill in vacancies."

Stassen admits that compared to Dutch graduates, foreign MSc students could have more chance when applying, since they are more experienced. She stresses that interested MSc students are welcome to react on vacancies or that they may contact SNV's field offices to inquire for possibilities.

Dean Hermans admits that she hardly deals with the position of MSc graduates on the labour market. She explains: 70% of the foreign students have jobs to which they will return. Only students from, for instance, other European countries are in a similar position to Dutch students, but they return to their own countries to find jobs. The only action I sometimes undertake for them is writing a general letter of reference."

Ms Naber is a staff member of the KLV Career Service. This foundation assists both regular and MSc graduates from WAU in finding an appropriate position. Naber discloses that they issue a bulletin every fortnight which includes international vacancies related to the various disciplines of the university. Naber tells that some MSc students drop by to read the bulletin but that only ten MSc graduates are registered for employment. She explains that most of these are looking for jobs here since they are involved in a relationship with a Dutch partner.

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