Science - January 29, 2004

International students crucial to university funding

The way in which universities in the Netherlands are funded will undergo radical changes in 2005, according to the recently published Higher Education and Research Plan (HOOP). It is likely that the amount of money brought in by students from abroad will decrease. Nevertheless plans for more international, sector-oriented universities, such as Wageningen already is, could be a positive outcome.

Wageningen University receives extra money for each foreign student admitted. The recently published report warns, however, that international students must not be recruited for their money, but must be attracted by the quality of education on offer. Other legitimate reasons for attracting foreign students, according to the report, could be the strategic profile of a university and the maintenance of important sectors of the Dutch knowledge economy.

One of the key aspects of the new funding structure is that universities will be judged more on their individual performances and less on the numbers of students they recruit. The agreements made will vary from university to university, and will be made known during the course of this year. How Wageningen University will fare remains to be seen. The plans of Secretary of State for Education Annette Nijs would seem to indicate a kind of ‘wageningisation’ of Dutch higher education: she makes clear in the report that she intends to invest more in sector-oriented universities that promote themselves internationally. Five million euros are to be allotted to bachelor and master’s programmes specifically geared to the international market, and the scholarship programme for international students in the science and technology sector will be extended. | Guido van Hofwegen

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