The number of Arabian students coming to the Netherlands is on the increase. Wageningen UR starts to recruit in the Middle East.
'The Middle East is a growing market', says the Wageningen initiator Rien Bor. 'Two generations ago, the Gulf states bought all their knowledge. Nowadays, being aware that oil stocks can be depleted have perhaps made them want to educate their own population. Various funds are available for thousands who want to study in the west.' The chief among these funds is the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme which sends 30,000 students overseas with 50,000 euros for two years. These students begin their Masters studies in Wageningen only after meeting the requirements in English language skills, scientific standards and motivation.
Meanwhile, the influx of Arabians has given rise to its fair share of problems. According to 'Transfer' magazine, Saudi Arabian medical students in Groningen and Maastricht are having difficulties with small group teaching and with the Dutch and the English languages.
In Wageningen, too, things are not always smooth. Of the ten Saudi students who began their MSc in nutrition in Wageningen in 2008, only one has graduated. Student recruiter Bor: 'The others have either left or are still studying. They are bright enough but lack determination.'
Bor however sees differences among the Arabian countries. 'Students from the Gulf states are rich, but the quality of education offered there is often lower. Students from the old Arabian world, Egypt, Syria and Jordan, are relatively well educated but do not have much money.'
Universities join hands
Dutch universities and applied sciences universities have been jointly recruiting overseas for some time under Nuffic (Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education). A few years ago, six universities began to join hands in countries where Nuffic does not operate, but which have scholarships and good students. This collective recruitment agency is called the Holland Education Consortium. The joint recruitment in Arabian countries is an extension of this programme.