Netherlands gov’t collapse leaves unis in limbo

Netherlands gov’t collapse leaves unis in limbo

The collapse of the government in the Netherlands could spell trouble for its recent internationalisation reform talks, as stakeholders brace for “more stringent nationalistic rules”.

An election to determine the next government of the Netherlands will take place in Autumn 2023. Photo: Unsplash

It’s not clear what this will all mean for the internationalisation bill

On July 7, the country’s coalition of VVD – the party of outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte – D66, Christian Democrats and the Christian Union broke down after talks on asylum policies fell apart after weeks of negotiations.

Prior to the collapse, politicians were debating new internationalisation reforms for universities, including an expansion of the use of the Dutch language (and subsequent limits on English), as well as other policies including intake of international students.

According to representatives from universities, the issues surrounding immigration – including the internationalisation reforms – contributed to the government’s subsequent downfall.

Perry Hobson, who heads up the Academy of Tourism at Breda University of Applied Sciences, told The PIE News problems that could arise will come out of the limbo that now befalls the country. 

“The election won’t be until November,” he noted.

“The expectation is that the proposed bill – which was not agreed on – will be put ‘on ice’ for now until the election.

“Then, the inevitable post-election manoeuvres to form a new government will take place, and so on,” Hobson explained.

The Universities of the Netherlands told The PIE that it’s not clear what this will all mean for the internationalisation bill.

“On September 12, the Tweede Kamer will vote on which bills will be declared controversial,” the spokesperson said.

This refers to a practice in Dutch politics wherein politically sensitive topics can be declared controversial by either or both houses of the parliament in the period before an election – meaning they will not be looked at by parliament until a new government is installed.

“An even more stringent set of nationalistic rules may appear”

“We argue that only the three steering instruments should pass.

“These include the possibility of setting an enrolment quota specifically for an English-language track within a degree program (while Dutch-language tracks remain open); the possibility of setting a maximum number of non-EEA students per degree program; and an emergency quota, to be used if it becomes apparent during the application procedure that the number of applications is increasing so rapidly that the degree program is getting into difficulty,” the spokesperson said.

They added that the organisation has been indicating since 2018 that there is a “need to better manage the influx of international students at program level”.

The outcome of the election will be watched closely by universities – and, subsequently, whether the proposed internationalisation measures happen at all, or would perhaps be implemented in an even more aggressive manner.

“The worry… seems to be that a further shift to the right may mean an even more stringent set of nationalistic rules may appear,” Hobson said.

“Assuming a more right wing government emerges, the situation could get worse, not better,” he added.

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