Highs and lows in International Student Barometer

The latest International Student Barometer (ISB) showed that while the RUG’s international students are generally satisfied, housing, employability and catering still have room for improvement.

The University of Groningen performed quite well in all five themes of the survey: decision making, arrival and orientation, living satisfaction, learning satisfaction and support satisfaction, all of which received a score above 3 in a scale from 1 to 5 (low to high).

Improved scores

The University of Groningen has worked on improving in several categories since 2010, but in general, students feel that Groningen is a good place to be and they appreciate its multicultural environment.

New students were particularly positive about how the university welcomes them: the score has not only improved since 2010, but this year was very close to the global average of 3.03, with a score of 2.97 for the RUG. Scores for the international classroom, class size, technology, the university’s academic staff and the level of English spoken have also improved.

Scores for satisfaction with the university’s laboratories and expert lecturers remained steady this year, with both categories receiving a score of 3.38.

Room for improvement

Despite students’ general satisfaction, there is still room for improvement. In the categories assessing the housing office (although the Housing Office is no longer responsible for international student housing) – with a score of 2.45 – accommodation conditions – 2.88 – and employability – 2.80 – all scored below the global average. Careers advice (2.62) and work experience (2.52) were also found lacking.

Although changes to catering from the university’s canteens and café are reflected in somewhat improved scores in the past five years, it remains a low point with a score of 2.83, which is still below the global average.

Progress report

Jonah Thompson, an international member SOG’s faction in the University Council, sees the latest barometer as a progress report. ‘The university board is aware of the problems and took action this year in order to solve them. But it takes time for such things to improve. We hope that we will see some positive results in the next couple of years,’ he says.

As the survey indicates, international students’ biggest challenge remains lack of job opportunities. Although the category ‘earning money’ improved with a score of 1.98 this year – last year it was 1.93 – it is still low in comparison to the global average score of 2.51. A related issue – financial support – also scored lower than the global average.

Job opportunities

When it comes to the reasons why students choose the university where they eventually study, Groningen was largely on par with other Dutch institutions. However, students gave potential work opportunities in Groningen a lower score (2.61) than the Dutch average (2.83).

‘It is true that students can’t get a job easily’, Thompson says. ‘But this is a complicated issue that involves a lot of different factors that need to be improved.’ Aside from offering Dutch courses to students, Thompson says he does not see much else the university can do toward fixing this particular issue.

In total, 2,245 international students and PhD candidates shared their opinions about the University of Groningen, which was a higher turn out than the 2014 edition: last year, 1,213 students responded to the survey. The global average scores were based on results from 172 other higher education institutions.