Numerus causus planned for foreign-language tracks

Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven (D66) wants to instate a numerus causus for foreign-language programme tracks at the university. It’s one of several actions aimed at curtailing the influx of foreign students.

By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Right now, universities can only cap enrolments if the cap applies to an entire educational programme – whatever language the classes are taught in. The minister wants to change the rules with the new Taal en Toegankelijkheid (Language and Accessibility) proposal, which would allow universities to cap enrolment in foreign-language programme tracks. 

The proposed law should prevent Dutch higher education from suffering from encroaching internationalisation policies. If the Lower House accepts the proposal, universities will be able to limit the number of students enrolling in the foreign-language track of a programme, without any restriction on enrolments in the Dutch track. But: the minister will have to approve of the planned cap.

Negative impact on higher education

The measure was established in response to recommendations from the Interdepartementaal Beleidsonderzoek Internationalisering (Interdepartmental Policy Study Internationalisation), which the minister commissioned in order to study the effects of internationalisation and the increasing numbers of international students in Dutch higher education.

In a written response to the study on Friday, the minister told the Lower House that internationalisation is ‘beneficial to science, the economy, and the labour market’. But it can also negatively impact higher education. ‘There’s a chance the system will eventually buckle under the influx of foreign students, which would not only affect funding, but also access for Dutch students.’

Allowing a cap to the number of students is one of the actions that should alleviate the pressure on the education system. The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), which is mostly happy with the proposed law, is critical of the part where the minister can refuse a numerus causus. ‘Right now we don’t know on which grounds she’ll be able to refuse, or who will be responsible for the quality of the programmes’, the association writes on its website.


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