Too easy: UvA makes internationals the scapegoat

Too easy: UvA makes internationals the scapegoat

The UvA now has its very own migration crisis. Towering amounts of international students make our university burst at the seams. It’s not often that I wish former UvA student Thierry Baudet was part of the universities board, but last week I did. He would have uttered great lines like ‘Our university is full, go back to your own country’ or ‘Internationals are taking the place of our Dutch students, scandalous.’ Unfortunately, Baudet was too busy walking around as Sinterklaas in Volendam, complete with beard, goldenrod, and a handful of Populist Petes.

Instead, we have Geert ten Dam, UvA’s chairman, who says that the high amounts of students are causing an unacceptable workload for professors and that an ‘internationals numerus fixus -a limited amount of available spots- is heavily being considered’ (AT5). Not as great as the ‘full is full’ quotes from Baudet, but I’ll give it an eight for effort. However, UvA’s capacity problem is a severe one and could lead to some dire problems, if not resolved.

The meat of the matter is a high increase of students from abroad following courses at the UvA. Last year the number of new internationals was around 2.400, this year it was almost 33% higher: 3.240 new international students moved to Amsterdam. But can you blame them? Amsterdam has one of the highest percentages of English speakers in Europe, the UvA is a highly praised university and almost every course is offered in English.

This is why it strikes me that the UvA is blaming internationals for putting the quality of our education at risk, while they were rolling out the red carpet for them all these years. It’s like leaving every light on in your house during a hot summer day and then blaming the mosquitos for visiting your bedroom at night.

Making internationals the scapegoat by implementing an internationals numerus fixus is not only easy, but it’s also denying the truth. Yes, high amounts of students are a real threat to the well-being of professors. Yes, internationals are pushing out Dutch students. Truth is, nothing can be done about these things without creating other problems. A numerus fixus for internationals will create an unfair ratio of students per country.

In my opinion, the UvA is wasting too much time looking for answers to an unsolvable question, which they could spend on improving the international classroom. UvA’s original intention of bringing in internationals was to enhance the worldview of Dutch students by letting them interact with different cultures and ways of thinking. However, in 2021 it is safe to say this international classroom project has failed miserably. International students are not coming to Amsterdam because they want to learn about Dutch culture. Most of them are studying at the UvA because it costs less than other universities abroad, Amsterdam is a beautiful city and it is highly accepting of non-Dutch students.

Dutch and international students are not engaging enough with each other. In my experience, the internationals I know, often find comfort in their own bubble, which causes less of an urgency to learn, for example, Dutch or follow national politics. This is not really the fault of these students. We, the Dutch folks, do the exact same. The UvA also isn’t making much of an effort in promoting the Dutch language to internationals. What remains is an absent UvA community and clusters of internationals and nationals. Students go to campus for a lecture, drink a cheap coffee, and leave to hang out with their close group of like-minded friends.

A numerus fixus could solve the capacity issues, but can it solve the absence of a UvA community?

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