Government takes the next step to create balance in the internationalisation of education

Balance between the value of internationalisation for our education on the one hand, and accessibility to this education on the other. With this goal in mind, Minister of Education Robbert Dijkgraaf is working on a legislative proposal that is part of a broader package of measures to manage and control internationalisation. The Government has now taken the next step; this proposal has been submitted to the Education Council for review. Universities of applied sciences and research universities have also been asked to submit proposals for self-management and control in regard to this topic. Minister Dijkgraaf explains this in a letter to the House of Representatives today.

Minister Dijkgraaf: “As a knowledge country, the Netherlands needs international students: we need talent for science, for our labour market and for the educational programmes themselves. I plan to use a joint and well-considered approach in order to strike a balance. My  goal is to maintain the intrinsic value of internationalisation. This requires balance through accessibility and by considering what society and the institutions can handle. It is very important that tertiary education is and will remain accessible to all citizens of the Netherlands. So we have to take action now. The legislative proposal is intended to allow for thorough, focused and speedy intervention.”

Preservation of the Dutch language

The Government is working on the Balanced Internationalisation Act (Wet internationalisering in balans, WIB). Work is being done as quickly as possible, but also thoroughly, and step by step. In order to achieve this balance in internationalisation, Minister Dijkgraaf focuses on the preservation of the Dutch language as a language of instruction and science, and the ability to manage the numbers of incoming students. Steps include the development of instruments in regard to language of instruction, language proficiency, using fixed ceilings for student numbers in educational programmes, and management. In this, there is also a special focus on regional and other customisation.

In the proposal that was available for public consultation this summer, the misunderstanding arose that only one third of all educational programmes would be allowed to be taught entirely in another language. That is incorrect: this was in reference to scope for foreign-language subjects and modules within Dutch Bachelor’s and Associate degree programmes, which would be allowed up to a maximum of one third of the total.

Advisory report from the Education Council

The public consultation resulted in a lot of feedback, which was carefully reviewed. At this time, the legislative proposal is being submitted to the Education Council (Onderwijsraad), which is the country’s highest-level advisory body for education for the Government. This independent advisory report is very important to ensure a thorough legislative procedure, also taking into account the impact of the measures on the education sector and society. After receiving and considering the advisory report from the Education Council, the legislative proposal will be submitted to the Council of State (Raad van State) for review as soon as possible in 2024.  


The legislative proposal is part of a broader package of measures. The instruments from the WIB require management of internationalisation, first and foremost by the institutions themselves. In anticipation of the entry into force of the legislative proposal, Minister Dijkgraaf has asked the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH) and the Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) to submit a first draft of their own proposal for self-management in regard to this topic next month. Minister Dijkgraaf wants to complete the approach for the self-management of institutions in March 2024.

Growth of international students

Over the past decade, the number of international students in the Netherlands has increased considerably. The preliminary enrolment figures for the 2023-2024 academic year show some stabilisation compared to previous years. Of all incoming students in higher education, more than 25% are international students. About 45% of these students come to the Netherlands for a Bachelor’s degree in academic higher education. This makes Bachelor’s degrees in higher education the most frequent destination for new international students, just like last year. Without a handle on incoming study mobility, the quality of education can come under pressure. Dutch students’ accessibility to certain English-taught educational programmes could then be at risk. It is also becoming more and more difficult for students to find accommodation, particularly in the major cities. And this undermines the experience that education and student life should offer.