WAU out to attract more international students
International students form a small minority in most of the university departments. The Executive Board plans to change that position in the coming ten years. By the end of the first decade of the new millennium there should be 2000 international students coming to Wageningen each year, ten times the present figure. This is the goal of the International Action Plan, presented last week by Rector Cees Karssen
The memorandum sets out WUR's international plans for the coming four years. The University intends to attract 150 more students to the international MSc programmes each year during this period. By 2003 there should be 800 international students per year. According to Karssen the biggest obstacle to recruiting new international students is finance. WAU has to turn away hundreds of applicants each year because of the lack of grants available. The University will go in search of grants from international bodies in both the public and private sectors. In addition Wageningen is planning to attract students from richer countries who are capable of paying tuition and maintenance costs themselves. Target countries are likely to be in Europe and Southeast Asia
Under the new plan PhD education is expected to attract about half of the 800 PhD students from outside the Netherlands by 2003. The numbers of Dutch graduates who chose to continue with research in the natural sciences have been declining steadily over the past years. Universities are also finding it increasingly difficult to attract graduates because the job market is booming at the moment, and career prospects outside academia are good
The International Action Plan was produced by a work group formed at the end of last year under the reorganisation plan. The group is headed by Cees Karssen, who from his position on the University Executive Board will remain responsible for international policy in the years to come. At the moment there are seven separate research institutes within WAU. One of the first steps to come out of the action plan will be the formation of a Wageningen Graduate School to coordinate recruitment and education for international students
Research must also become more internationally oriented according to the plan. In the coming five years Wageningen wants to attract fifty percent more money for research from international funding sources. At the moment WAU earns approximately 190 million guilders from research carried out for foreign clients. Half of this comes from the European Union and about a quarter from development projects. Karssen believes that the new EU research programme offers lots of opportunities for Wageningen as the programme contains a large rural development component, as well as other fields in which WAU specializes
Why so much attention to the international orientation?
Karssen: 225225Part of our existence is based on WAU's international position. Traditionally this has been strong, but competition is increasing and the action plan is our response to this. This is not just a memo but a concrete action plan which outlines the steps that need to be taken. It contains clear goals, and if we do not achieve these then the plan will fail
A few years ago you indicated that the University needed to attract more international students. That turned out to be more difficult than expected. Why should the coming years be any different?
I agree the plan is very ambitious, but there is a lot of demand for our courses. Each year we have many more applicants than we can accept. Finance is the problem. By attracting more students who are financially independent and going after grants from international funding bodies we think we can start to solve the problem
The memorandum states that you intend to attract students from economically affluent regions. Does this mean you are dropping development oriented education and research?
No, definitely not. We plan to continue with education and research related to developing countries, and this is also a component of the action plan. The fact remains, however, that if you look at the funds that are available for development cooperation then we will never be able to achieve the growth we are aiming for from these sources alone. We have to look elsewhere