Science - October 7, 2004

Wageningen fourth friendliest

What do Dutch universities do to ease the organisational aspects of a period in the lowlands for visiting foreign researchers? Folia, the University of Amsterdam newspaper, published a list this week of the top ten universities in terms of facilities offered to foreign visitors. Wageningen came in fourth.

Five aspects of facilities offered by thirteen universities were compared: housing, permits, ‘inburgeren’ or learning about customs here, arrangements for partners and children, and special financial arrangements. The scores were: 5 excellent, 4 good, 3 sufficient, 2 mediocre, 1 bad.

Top of the list is Tilburg, where housing is well organised in local hotels for short-stay visitors. Suitable accommodation is found for visitors staying longer through housing offices and property agents. The costs of residence permits are included in the terms of employment, and it includes permits for partner and children. The whole family can take a course in Dutch for free and relocation costs up to 9600 euros are reimbursed.

Groningen is the star university when it comes to organising residence permits. It is the only Dutch university that pays the fees for the original permit and any renewals, not only for the visiting researcher but also for family members. Day-care for children is easy to find and parents who want their children to attend an international school can get part of the fees reimbursed. Removal costs are also covered.

Wageningen seems to get by without too much being formalised. ‘Finding a house in Wageningen is not a problem; most departments usually manage to ring round and find suitable accommodation for international visiting researchers. Residence permits are not officially paid for, but according to a spokesperson ‘you can assume that at least a reasonable amount is reimbursed’. Foreigners are flooded with information on the Netherlands, Wageningen and the university. Social events are organised. Special arrangements, such as relocation costs are not automatically paid, but in practice ‘something is always worked out’.’ Wageningen scored 3 for housing, 3 for permits, 3 for ‘inburgeren’, 2 for partners and children and 2 for special financial arrangements. / SvO

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