Organisation - April 30, 2020

Make sure qualifications are uniform worldwide

Tessa Louwerens

PhD candidate has seen for himself how refugees can be held back in the Netherlands because their educational qualifications are not recognized. So one of his propositions is: Universities around the world should issue uniform diplomas for better and quicker integration of refugees in society.

PhD students are required to submit a handful of propositions with their thesis. In this feature, they explain the thinking behind their most thought-provoking proposition. This time it’s the turn of Mark Roosjen, who graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry for his study of proteins involved in auxin signaling in plants. The plant hormone auxin is involved in most processes in plants.

‘My wife is Iraqi and she came to the Netherlands when she was four. Several members of her family had been to university but found that they couldn’t do as much with their degrees here. Her father was an accountant, for instance. In the Netherlands he has always worked in a supermarket distribution centre.

Nuffic, the Dutch organization for internationalization in education, evaluates educational qualifications, but often rates a university degree gained elsewhere as equivalent to an applied sciences or vocational qualification in the Netherlands. For many people, returning to higher education is too big or too expensive a step, especially when they are breadwinners in their families.

Going back into higher education is too big or expensive a step for many people

Western universities in Europe or the United States, for example, should try to help improve university education in developing countries or war zones, to bring it up to the same level as our universities. One way of doing this could be teacher exchanges. We have the resources and the money for that, and I think we would benefit if it made it easier for people to integrate when they move here.

This applies not just to refugees, but also to students who got their first degree abroad and want to come to Wageningen. Now they usually have to take extra courses or meet additional admissions requirements. With uniform degree programmes, that would not be necessary. Of course it would cost money, but it also benefits society. And apart from that, I think it’s our moral responsibility: good education is a universal right.’