During the open day for Van Hall Larenstein and for Wageningen University, on Saturday 7 June, all the usual signs are evident: coffee and tea, students in brightly coloured t-shirts with name badges, and PR material in abundance. There’s one difference though. Everyone’s speaking German.
‘Wageningen UR decided to go along with VHL this year because they want to attract more Germans. There are already quite a few, but nowhere near as many compared to the numbers of Germans at the universities in Nijmegen and Maastricht,’ says Ramona Langanki, herself German and studying International Development Studies at the University. ‘The things that attract Germans are the special studies and the education system here. German universities are very big and that puts some students off. Very little student recruitment is done in Germany, so an open day in Holland draws lots of visitors.’
Van Hall Larenstein students show visitors around and hold workshops. A noticeable difference with the University hosts is that the VHL team speaks German and English, but no Dutch. ‘It’s not necessary,’ says tour guide Liza McKenna. ‘All our study is in English, and eighty percent of the students doing Equine, Leisure and Sport are German.’ Undergraduates at Wageningen University often have to do courses in the first year in Dutch, so they have to have some command of the language.
And what about the visitors themselves: is the open day worthwhile? Not all are positive. At the chocolate workshop, a group of high-school students who have come to look at the Fair Trade Management study comment that an open day for all nationalities would have been better. ‘I had no idea that it was a day especially for Germans. It’s a bit silly really. If you want to study here I assume you speak enough English to be able to ask questions at the open day. A special day like this makes it look as though you can survive here if you only speak German, but I bet that’s not the case,’ says a German schoolgirl as she dips an almond into the chocolate fondue.