Even though the number of international students in the Netherlands increases strongly, only a few foreign students become members of student associations. The internationals often (54 percent) do not know they can become a member; this is the result of a survey by the LKvV, a lobby organisation for the student associations.
This is in part due to the fact that international students come to the Netherlands after the introduction week in August and, as such, miss all introduction activities regarding the student associations. Nevertheless, the associations themselves are also not too excited.
Over half of the associations (63 percent) does take action to make membership for international students more attractive. Albertus Magnus, for example, organises international parties and provides an interpreter during the introduction period.
However, the members of the association are not looking forward to international colleagues. The LKvV’s survey shows that about three-quarters of their members take a neutral or negative stance against an increase in international students for their association. Over half (63 percent) of the associations thus thinks that it is not realistic to strive for more international students at their society.
The LKvV thinks that the language barrier is the biggest obstacle. ‘Multiple associations in the Netherlands have existed for decades or centuries and for these associations a culture has formed over time that has become the unique property of these associations. As such, the demand for direct change from higher education is not desired so much,’ the organisation concludes.
Nearly all associations feel that changing the culture is undesirable, the LKvV feels. Nevertheless, the organisation thinks that they will have to adapt due to the increase in the number of foreign students.
Moreover, the organisation thinks that the fear for a change in culture is unnecessary. ‘International students often are very enthusiastic about learning the Dutch culture and language. If necessary, an international student can receive some help, such as from R.K.S.V. Albertus Magnus, for example, so the customs and traditions are clear from day one.’
New introduction period
The RUG changes the introduction period for students to make it more attractive for foreign students to come to Groningen sooner to participate in the KEI week. This should improve integration.
Student associations Albertus and Vindicat indicated that they are unwilling to shorten their hazing period for the new introduction period in Groningen. In fact, they want a longer introduction period so the hazing will be less intensive. Furthermore, Vindicate indicates that they are not in favour of shortening their own introduction period, because the members are not too keen on further internationalisation of the association.