Students on campus

Internationalization

Internationalization is crucial to Dutch universities and to our society. It contributes to a stimulating academic climate, to staying up to speed with international scientific developments, and to educating a sufficiently large pool of talent for the labor market.

Much of our scientific research is international, and our researchers collaborate with fellow scientists from all over the world. That is how we grow scientific knowledge and share it worldwide. Knowledge that also benefits the Dutch economy and Dutch society. Knowledge that can contribute to solving the major, and global, social issues we are facing. Our international community is a valuable and integrated part of Tilburg University.

International classroom

International classrooms are one way in which we want to prepare our students for today’s world and that of tomorrow. To make a discipline truly their own, it is imperative that students are offered perspectives from other parts of the world. International classrooms also offer students opportunities to meet and work with students from other countries and cultures, which in turn enables them to graduate as inquisitive, open-minded and critical citizens of the world.

Studying and doing research abroad

We believe students should have the opportunity to study abroad for a while. That will help them to get acquainted with another language, a different culture, and a different educational system, and to become more independent. What they gain in international knowledge in experience benefits our economy and our role in the global economy. It also increases students’ chances on the labor market. Our university is part of several international networks of universities, such as the alliance of European universities ENGAGE.EU. We also have collaborative relationships in research and education with institutes, institutions, and governments from across the globe. 

Political internationalization debate

The House of Representatives has expressed concerns over the rapid rise in the number of international students currently studying in the Netherlands and the impact this rise has on, among other things, student accommodation and Dutch as an academic language. Minister Dijkgraaf has subsequently tabled a bill introducing the Balanced Internationalization Act, (Wet Internationalisering in Balans, WIB). The aim of the proposed WIB is to balance the advantages and disadvantages of internationalization in higher education. In the summer of 2023, the bill was open to online consultation allowing all parties concerned to respond. Read the responses of Tilburg University and Universiteiten van Nederland (universities of the Netherlands, UNL) to the proposed WIB here and here respectively. 

While the universities are content with the proposed enrollment restrictions to control the intake of international students, they fear a number of proposed measures are unfeasible; deadlines are too tight and large-scale recruitment of Dutch teachers when teachers are hard to come by is impossible. They are also deeply concerned about the proposed far-reaching interventions in the universities’ autonomy. That autonomy is crucial to the quality of education and research. 

Universities take control

To ensure their quality and accessibility, the universities have drafted a guideline of proposed measures to better control internationalization that reflect regional and sectoral differences. Even though there are different bottlenecks in different regions, the universities share a sense of responsibility to take measures together. Once there is a new government, universities will take measures to strengthen the Dutch language, to control international intake, to secure accessibility for Dutch students, to strengthen Dutch as an academic language, and to increase the likelihood of international talent staying. For some of these measures, political support is indispensable, because their implementation depends on what exactly the future WIB will stipulate. Minister Dijkgraaf encourages universities to take control and the House of Representatives has adopted the Hertzberger motion (in Dutch) requesting that all universities make plans to push back the number of English-taught degree programs. The universities are currently discussing the motion.

Read the UNL press release and the measures.

Education Council’s advice

In early February, the Education Council submitted its opinion on the proposed WIB. Its recommendation is to more carefully consider and detail the bill. While the Council is positive about the proposed enrollment restriction measures to better match the intake of international students with the available education capacity, it is critical of the proposed measures concerning the language of instruction of degree programs in higher education in terms of substantiation, proportionality, legal certainty, and feasibility.

Read the Education Council’s opinion on the WIB here (in Dutch).

Tilburg University responds to ongoing internationalization debate

Tilburg University is adamant that our international community is a valuable and integrated part of our university. We are closely monitoring all developments concerning the internationalization debate and we are studying the consequences these developments may have for our staff, our students, and eventually the quality of our education and research. Together with the Schools and the participation bodies, we will work out the implementation of internal measures over the coming period. 

Alarm and concerns

The internationalization debate can raise many questions and concerns amongst our international students and staff. And we understand. The Executive Board and the Deans are adamant that we embrace our international community. And these developments do not impact on the degree programs registered students are currently taking.

Questions can be submitted through internationaliseringsdiscussie@tilburguniversity.edu. Information about the consequences for Tilburg University will be shared as soon as it becomes available.

The situation in Tilburg

The political and public debate about the intake of international students raises several concerns. We here identify those concerns and share how they relate to the situation at our university:

Uncontrollable growth of international student numbers and associated costs

As a result of targeted and clear information efforts, the growth of the number of international students at our university is currently under control. And for two years now, we have not been recruiting at international fairs. We do, however, share long-term concerns: in view of the excellent quality of higher education in the Netherlands and of the favorable conditions for studying here, more international students may become interested in our degree programs.

Housing

Together with the city and the region, that both greatly value a student presence, we have actively addressed this issue for quite some time now and in recent years have increased the availability of student accommodation in Tilburg. And for the next three years, there is a concrete action plan to increase the number of housing units for students. For some years now, we have been advising international students against coming to Tilburg if they have not found accommodation.

Connection with society

Given Tilburg University’s character, the already strong connection of our students with society can be strengthened further, for example through placements, meeting societal challenges, and connecting with our Academic Collaborative Centers. 

Preserving the Dutch language and students’ language proficiency

Tilburg University’s internal communication is bilingual. We are increasingly using smart solutions to, for example, give our international staff and students simultaneous translations. The Dutch and English language proficiency of our students and lecturers is a matter of attention. For many years, Tilburg University’s Language Center has offered free language training to both Dutch and international students. And most large degree programs are offered in two separate language tracks, Dutch and English. 

Follow-up process regarding measures and proposed WIB

Together with the Schools and the participation bodies, Tilburg University will work out the measures over the coming period. For the WIB, the following time frame broadly applies:

  • Using the Education Council’s opinion, the Ministry will review the WIB proposal.
  • The reviewed WIB proposal will be submitted to the Council of State for advice.
  • The reviewed WIB proposal, whether revised or not, will be submitted to the House of Representatives for debate.
  • Once adopted by the House of Representatives, the WIB proposal will be submitted to the Senate for debate.
  • Once adopted by the Senate, the WIB may apply as of the 2025-2026 academic year.