Science - November 6, 2008

FOREIGN STUDENTS SATISFIED WITH WUR

Foreign masters students are every bit as pleased as their Dutch counterparts with the education they are receiving at Wageningen University. They even feel better prepared at the completion of their study to enter the employment market. The most significant demerits they cite are the thesis contract and the attention paid to their future career opportunities.

According to other student surveys, Wageningen is ranked as the best university in the Netherlands. Four consecutive years this has been the statistic seen in the official selection manual for higher education, a guide that offers students all of the higher education possibilities in the Netherlands. It must be said, though, that this top ranking reflects Dutch student opinion since almost no international students have taken part in the surveys. Foreign students’ opinions should be important for the guide since one in four Wageningen students comes from another country and other Dutch universities are heavily involved with internationalising their student populations.

Based on statistics found at the WUR headquarter for Education and Research, one can see that students arriving here with a foreign education have departed satisfied with the results of their Wageningen study. Their opinions do not deviate very much from that of Dutch students. On a scale of 1 to 5, the average result seen in these statistics was a four.

The graduating students evaluated many things such as the coaching they received from their study advisor, as well as their collaborations with students coming from other cultural backgrounds. The answers here also point out that foreign students seem more positive than Dutch students about their possibilities in both the job market and for Phd positions students – a finding that coincides with the demerits given to Wageningen in the selection manuals.

That foreign students’ ratings have not made their way into the official selection manuals is a result of it being very difficult for the Higher Education Press Bureau (HOP) to reach them - either by phone or in writing. HOP director, Frank Stelkamp, explains that ‘We work with the contact information the IB Group has for regular Dutch students’, (the IB Group pays student grants). Foreign students are often only briefly in the Netherlands and quite often information about them is obsolete. The survey even has a list of questions in English; however, it is so rarely filled in that it has no influence on the scores. The guide which was established many years ago was based on recent Dutch graduates and this places yet another obstacle for foreign students who are not accustomed to the ten point scale.

Attention is starting to be paid to the Netherland’s steady stream of foreign students, says Steenkamp. The manual now has a comparable website named studiekeuze123.nl and it recently added an English overview of the choices for higher education. The guide’s compilers are thinking of new ways to make their manual interesting for foreign students.

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