ISP conference raises many issues concerning international students
As the international student population continues to grow in Wageningen, and graduate education for both Dutch and international students is to be integrated and given in English, there are plenty of issues to be discussed. The afternoon was organised around six topics: policies and procedures of the local town council, relations between international students and the local population, the expectations of international students, academic issues arising from teaching in English, the perspective of Dutch students and religious practices.
The problems arising from the level of English used has set tongues wagging. It seems that while many international students and Dutch teachers can read and write English very well, spoken communication is often a problem. Dutch students also encounter problems, and one international student commented that some students come here only to improve their English, and not for the scientific material. Questions were also raised about the different methods of testing language ability. The American TOEFL test differs from the British one, only the latter including automatically a spoken test. Agreements between Wageningen and other universities are not standardised concerning the level of English required for admission.
The international students present during the conference indicated that they would like to become more involved in the Dutch student organisations. This is not such a simple matter, as international students do not stay for long. Lieselotte Heederik of the WSO suggested that the study related organisations might lose their traditionally Dutch aspects. However the SSRW student organisation has agreed to consider translating its magazine and web pages into English. International students do not experience much discrimination in Wageningen, and generally feel safe here, even after September 11.
Housing remains one the central issues for international students. Those present said they would like more say in where they live. In the closing plenary session the head of Education and Student Affairs, Paul Deneer, explained that his department is working hard at setting up specific help desks for international students in order to offer them better guidance in practical matters.
A report is being compiled of all the topics discussed during the afternoon. This will be presented to the university and will also be placed on the ISP website: www.wau.nl/isp/.