Student - February 5, 2009

STUDENTS DON'T DISAPPEAR FROM WAGENINGEN

Students are not disappearing from Wageningen, say the staff concerned. This is thanks to a strict selection process. De Volkskrant reported last week that two to three hundred foreign students have ‘disappeared’ from Dutch universities in recent years. This figure comes from a survey by the Education Inspectorate.

Foreigners who want to study here are given a temporary visa, after which it is not difficult to ‘disappear’. It is assumed that most of the missing students have ended up as illegal immigrants. But the government’s fear is of terrorists using a student visa to get into the Netherlands. Institutions with a lot of foreign students, such as Wageningen UR, run a higher risk. The research shows that initial selection is crucial. For example, it is important to have clear entrance qualifications, and to have dependable contact persons overseas. Working through agencies is a risk factor.

Do students ever disappear from Wageningen University?
Jeroen Ouberg from the Student Service Centre says: ‘No, it doesn’t happen actually. We are more concerned about student welfare, that is why we keep an eye on them. We want to prevent it happening that a student is seriously ill and is just lying alone in his room. Sometimes we hear nothing from someone for a while because they have gone home or started an internship early. Then we make enquiries in that person’s immediate circle – we start with what we know ourselves, then we ask around among their friends, and so we go on until we have traced the person.’

How does the university recruit foreign students?
Rien Bor, of foreign student recruitment, says: ‘We don’t work with any dubious intermediaries or commercial recruitment agencies. Our contacts often go through Wageningen graduates who went back to their own countries. They go to fairs, give presentations, and recruit new students. Many of them work at universities. Students who come here go through a careful academic selection, and we look at their grade averages and their dissertations. You don’t get in here without a solid educational background. Other institutions have had problems with people who didn’t have the right qualifications, which makes you wonder why they were admitted. A group of Nepalese disappeared for this reason. But that was at a questionable HBO institution. The Dutch universities have a joint code of conduct to prevent this sort of problem arising. We stick to it, and it works.’

Do you take extra precautions related to the threat of terrorism?
Bor: ‘No. We recruit as usual in Iran and the Middle East. Quality is what matters to us, and we concentrate on that.
What people do after graduating is up to them.’

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