Archive for the 'Netherlands' Category

Mobility Stats: Mapping Mobility & Open Doors

Posted by Eric on November 15th, 2010


Two international education organisations, Nuffic from the Netherlands and the Washington based Institute of International Education (IIE) published their international student mobility statistics this week. While Open Doors is being published by IIE already since 1948, the Nuffic publication – Mapping Mobility – was published for the first time in 2010. Although Nuffic published international education statistics before, this is the first one solely focused on higher education.


One finding of the Open Doors report was that the influx of international students into the US continued to grow modestly. Compared to the year before, there were 3% more international students coming to the US for the purpose of study (the vast majority for a full degree). The number of foreign students studying for a full undergraduate or graduate degree in the US (excluding non degree students) in 2009/10 was 568,316. This was almost 3% of the total student population.

In the Netherlands they witnessed a slightly higher growth. In 2009/10, there were 47,226 international degree students in the Netherlands, up 6.3% compared to the year before. Considering that the total student population also increased in the Netherlands, the percentage of foreign students remained stable at 7.4% of the total student population.

If we compare the growth rates between the US and the Netherlands in the past five years, we can observe a growth of over 40% in the Netherlands since 2005-6 and in the US a growth of 15%. (Data based on Table D in fast facts Open Doors and Diagram 06 in Mapping Mobility)

Countries of Origin

Other interesting dynamics are revealed if we look at the countries of origin. We can conclude that the growth in the US in the past year has been caused almost solely by the Chinese international student population. The number of Chinese students in the US increased by almost 30%, now accounting for almost a fifth of the international students in the US. The Netherlands however is much more dependent on a single nation. Germany remains the main source country for foreign students in the Netherlands, now accounting for 44% of all students. The table below shows the main source countries of the US and the Netherlands.



Not surprisingly, the main destinations of these students are institutions of the Dutch border region with Germany. The University of Maastricht tops the list, followed by four universities of applied science in the southern, central and northern provinces bordering with Germany. In the US this obviously shows a much more dispersed pattern. Most internationalised institutions here are the University of Southern California, the University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign), New York University, Purdue and Colombia.

Dutch universities & the ranking season

Posted by Eric on September 17th, 2010

altRanking season is over. Yesterday, the Times Higher published its new ranking and that also marked the end of the ranking season for this year. After the Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking, the Leiden ranking, the QS ranking and the Taiwan ranking, this was the fifth attempt to illustrate the differences in quality of the world’s universities. Whether they succeeded in this remains a question of debate.

Although there are quite some differences in the results of the rankings, a few common observations can be made. First of all, it is clear that the United States still is home to the best universities. In all rankings the US universities are dominant and Harvard is the undisputed leader. Only in the QS ranking it was a non US university  – Cambridge – that topped the list.

Another observation is that non of the rankings manage to sufficiently capture the quality of teaching in their assessment. The THE ranking made an attempt to do so, but most of their indicators still reflect research quality and prestige more than the quality of teaching. The Shanghai, Leiden and Taiwan rankings put most emphasis on research.

Even though the ranking predominantly assess research – although in different ways – the results are very different. To illustrate this point I have mapped the results of the Dutch research universities in the different rankings. The results are shown in the graph below (click to enlarge).


The results for the twelve universities (the thirteenth, Tilburg University somehow doesn’t appear in the rankings) show a substantial variation for all universities. For universities like Eindhoven, Twente and Maastricht, the variation seems exceptionally large. Eindhoven for instance was ranked as the best university in the THE ranking while performing worst in the Shanghai ranking. Leiden shows the least variation but here the difference between its rank in the Shanghai ranking (70th) and the THE ranking (124th) is still enormous.

Earlier this week at the OECD/IMHE conference Charles Reed, Chancellor of California State University, critiqued the rankings (“rankings are a disease”) and argued that all universities add value. I guess he’s right. And the value measured by one ranking seems to be quite different than the value measured by the other…

What does the future hold for (Dutch) higher ed?

Posted by Eric on September 6th, 2010

And another academic year begins…

The first Monday in September traditionally marks the start of the academic year in the Netherlands. It’s the occasion where university leaders look ahead to the year to come and where inspiring speakers are invited to present their views and opinions. It is also an opportunity to see what the big issues are in Dutch higher education and how prominent is the international dimension in these issues. What will upcoming speakers (and past speakers, in those cases where the opening of the year took place prior to today) talk about?

A quick look at the guest speakers for this year and the topics of their speeches reveals that the universities have their eyes set on the future. The future of higher education seems to be the preferred topic in this year’s opening ceremonies.

The future is digital

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda for the EU, will deliver a speech with the promising title ‘Europe 3.0’ at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Although some might claim that Europe has not yet entered the Web 2.0 era, Kroes – also alumnus of Erasmus University – will reveal her ideas on the digital future of Europe. An IT-festival with the theme ‘Erasmus Virtual Campus’ will precede the Opening ceremony and will include presentations on e-learning and e-research.

At Inholland University of Applied Sciences (UAS), the future is digital. The ongoing digitization of society and the blurring of the boundatries between the physical and virtual reality will provide new opportunities for higher education according to keynote speaker and trend watcher Adjiedj Bakas in Rotterdam last Wednesday.

Differentiation is the future

The University of Maastricht addresses the question what the world will look like in 20 years, and what universities should be doing today to gear their education and research towards this outlook? And who better to ask about the future than a historian? In Maastricht historian and author Bettany Hughes will present her views on  the Socratic future of education and of society.

Discussions on the future of Dutch higher education focus mainly on the report ‘Differentiation in threefold’. This report was written by an international advisory committee on the future sustainability of Dutch higher education. The chairman of the committee – Cees Veerman – spoke at Saxion UAS, HAN UAS and will appear at the University of Utrecht today addressing the question: “Is knowledge still power?” At Utrecht UAS, the report was discussed in the context of Europe and the position of the Universities of Applied Sciences in Europe.

The future is Europe?

The University of Amsterdam takes the future of Europe as its central theme for this year’s opening. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, chairman of the European Parliament’s Green Party, will be keynote speaker and will explore how ‘The European Dream’ has evolved over the past few decades. Also, three of its professors will consider ‘The End of Europe’ through the lens of their respective disciplines (Eastern European Studies, European Law and Communication Science).

Study abroad is the future

A special mention should be given to a very exceptional opening. The Dutch students studying at universities abroad, united in NEWS (Netherlands Worldwide Students), organized their own virtual opening of their global academic year. In a virtual address, Alexander Rinnooy Kan sent them the message that the Netherlands can only survive as a knowledge economy if we excel internationally and that we need students that are aware of the opportunities abroad.

Some other interesting speeches planned for today are:

  • ‘Two Cultures’ by Pieter Winsemius (member of the Scientific Council for Government Policy) at the University of Twente. He addresses the question how the natural sciences and the social sciences can reinforce each other and how the university contributes to society.
  • ‘How engineers can save the world’ by Rosalind Williams, Professor in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, speaking at Eindhoven University of Technology.
  • ‘Looking further ahead: Research and innovation for the long term’ by Robbert H. Dijkgraaf, President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) speaking at Leiden University.


Nuffic International Education Monitor

Posted by Eric on September 6th, 2010

The Nuffic (The Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education; whic also happens to be my current employer) has launched its Nuffic International Education Monitor today. I’m sure this will be a valauable tool for many international educators, higher education/international education researchers and others interested in the international dimension of higher ed.

The monitor tracks developments in almost 50 countries all over the world. It provides up-to-date country information and explores core themes in international higher education. It provides you with a selection of the news on international higher education, categorised thematically in seven dossiers and categorised by country. It also gives a daily selection of the most interesting international news and Dutch news. Furthermore, it presents monthly overviews of Dutch, European and international policy initiatives and a list of future conferences.

The monitor also features a blog on international higher education issues. Being one of the blog contributors, I will also cross post my own contributions here. Some forthcoming issues in the Nuffic Blog are: foreign backed universities, regulation of recruiting agents, Russia-Dutch scientific cooperation, mobility statistics and many others…

Let them know what you think of it!

Last week, the Dutch Volkskrant reported on an interesting study on the distribution of research funding by the Netherlands Research Council (NWO). Loet Leydesdorff (one of the researchers that introduced the Triple Helix concept) and Peter van den Besselaar – both of the Amsterdam School of Communications Research of the University of Amsterdam – conducted a study on the grant allocation decisions of the Netherlands Research Council in the Humanities and Social Sciences in the Netherlands.

Besselaar and Leydesdorff tested whether the grant decisions correlate with the past performances of the applicants in terms of publications and citations, and with the results of the peer review process organized by the Netherlands Research Council

In their paper they show that the Council is successful in distinguishing grant applicants with above-average performance from those with below-average performance, but within the former group no correlation could be found between past performance and receiving a grant. When comparing the best performing researchers who were denied funding with the group of researchers who received it, the rejected researchers significantly outperformed the funded ones. Within the top half of the distribution, neither the review outcomes nor past performance measures correlate positively with the decisions of the Council.

The authors conclude with some questions for further research. They suggest a network analysis of applicants, reviewers, committee members, and Council board members. This might provide an answer to the question whether funding is correlated to the visibility of the applicants within these networks. After all, in the social process of granting proposals many processes play a role, apart from scholarly quality: bias, old-boys’ networks and other types of social networks, bureaucratic competencies, dominant paradigms, etc., all play an important role in selection processes.

If my reading of the paper is correct, it might also point to a discrepancy between the grant decision makers and the international academic community. If we consider that metrics (past performance) and peer review very much emerge in international networks and the grant distributors make decisions contradicting the metrics and peer review, what does that tell about the Council members’ involvement in these international networks?

The paper will be published later this year in the journal Research Evaluation.

What if I graduated from Amherst or ENS de Lyon…

Posted by Eric on January 6th, 2009

What if I graduated from Amherst College or the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, I was not a European citizen and I would like to pursue a career in the Netherlands? Well, the Dutch government would say I was not educated sufficiently to enter the Netherlands. You might ask yourself why? Isn’t the ENS de Lyon a good school? Actually it is, according to its 72nd place in the 2006 THES rankings.

No, it’s not that ENS Lyon is a lousy university. It’s just that they ended up on rank number 157 of the Times Higher Education Ranking in 2007. And – as I feared before – nowadays in the Netherlands this means that you are not qualified as a skilled migrant. As is stated in the new immigration policy – entered into force this year – only some knowledge workers are eligible to enter the Netherlands:

From abroad, immigrants are only eligible if they graduated from a university in the top 150 of the two recognised university rankings, the league tables published in 2007 by the ‘Times Higher Education Supplement‘ and the ‘Jiao Tong Shanghai University’.

You might argue that ENS Lyon improved its ranking to 140 in 2008. But no…, the Dutch government uses the 2007 league tables. Period!

Or what if I had graduated from some of the world’s best liberal arts colleges? From Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, Wellesley?

Not good enough…

And what if I had graduated from the University of Hokkaido (Japan)? The University of Notre Dame (USA)? Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China)? Universität Stuttgart (Germany)? University of Calgary (Canada)? Macquarie University (Australia)? Helsinki University of Technology (Finland)? RWTH Aachen (Germany)? University of Surrey (UK)? University of Barcelona (Spain)? Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden)? ….Bergen, Ottawa, Frankfurt, Brussels, Stockholm, Coimbra, Delaware?

No…not good enough…

Foreign Students and the Global Competition for Talent

Posted by Eric on October 13th, 2008

The OECD recently published a very interesting report on skilled migration and the diffusion of knowledge: The Global Competition for Talent: Mobility of the Highly Skilled. This publication can be seen as a follow-up of the 2002 report International Mobility of the Highly Skilled. Here’s a short summary of the summary:

“International mobility of human resources in science and technology is of growing importance and can have important impacts on knowledge creation and diffusion in both receiving and sending countries indicating that it is not necessarily a zero-sum game.

41362960talent Receiving countries benefit from a variety of positive effects related to knowledge flows and R&D. But sending countries can also experience positive effects. Much of the literature on highly skilled emigration focuses on remittances and brain drain but emigration of skilled workers can also spur human capital accumulation in the sending country. Brain circulation stimulates knowledge flows and builds links between locations. Diaspora networks can function as a conduit in these migration flows so that all countries can benefit.

Most OECD countries are net beneficiaries of highly skilled migration but there are significant variations. Students are increasingly mobile as well and often leads to skilled migration, both short and long term migration. Some evidence suggests that immigrant HRST (Human Resources in Science and Technology) contribute strongly to innovation.”

Skilled migration is an increasingly important rationale for the higher education internationalisation policies of national governments (and of the European Union as well). In this global competition for talent, Australia and Canada have  actively linked the recruitment of foreign students to their skilled migration policies. This approach is also increasingly chosen by European countries. Particularly in the science and technology related fields, skill shortages are becoming apparent and the benefits of (cultural) diversity for innovation are recognised.

And if you need a highly skilled and diverse body of professionals, why not start with foreign students? At Nuffic we recently published an appeal for an increased attention for internationalisation. In this appeal, the skilled migration approach is clearly apparent (see here for the Dutch booklet, or here for the English translation). Obviously, we are of the opinion that such policies should not come at the expense of developing countries…

The new OECD report shows again that such policies can create benefits for both the sending and receiving countries. This goes in  particular for emerging economies where the opportunities for brain circulation are present. Other studies – like this world bank report – show that it are the least developed countries that suffer most from the brain drain because brain circulation does not occur in these countries. Here, skilled migration policies should be accompanied by compensating and mitigating policies for the sending countries (see this CGD publication for some ideas on this issue).

On the use of rankings and league tables

Posted by Eric on July 1st, 2008

Just before going to a meeting on rankings I saw this. It is from the proposed new immigration policy: Blueprint for a modern migration policy (pdf; in Dutch). As in so many other immigration countries, it contains a chapter on skilled migration. Here is a translation of the passage that surprised me:

Anticipating the implementation of the new migration system, the government will at the latest in the first half of 2009 introduce a regulation for highly skilled immigrants. On the basis of the regulation, foreigners can stay in the country for a maximum of one year to find a job as a ‘knowledge migrant’ or to start an innovative company.

The objective of the regulation connects well to the ambition of the innovation platform to attract 1000 extra knowledge migrants. It is also in line with the advice on knowledge migrants of the Commission on Labour Participation in its report ‘towards a future that works‘.

The target group consists of foreigners that are relatively young and received their Bachelor, Master or PhD degree not longer than three years ago. Migrants are eligible if they received their degree from a university that is in the top 150 of two international league tables of universities. Because of the overlap, the lists consists of 189 universities…

And guess what the two league tables are. Yes, the Shanghai ranking and the Times Higher Education Ranking. Now…this will mean that firms like this have influence on who is eligible to come and work in the Netherlands. Something is not right here…

Market share and competition

Posted by Eric on May 14th, 2008

In the Dutch weekly journal ESB (Economic and Statistical Reports), economists from the universities of Groningen and Rotterdam presented an interesting article. Their starting assumption is that high student evaluations will have a positive effect on the market share of universities. After all, if a programme in a particular university is highly ranked by students, more students will chose this particular university to attend that programme.

The authors collected six year of student evaluations where students rate their programmes on a scale of 1-10  (as published annually in the Dutch weekly magazine Elsevier). Market share for each programme/university combination was calculated by dividing the number of students in programme X in university Y by all students in the Netherlands in programme X. When the evaluation of the programme is compared with the market share, we get the following graph:


On the basis of this finding (and the results of a simulation that they run), they present some interesting conclusions. I won’t go in details, but one of them is that there is no clear relation between evaluation and market share. Hence, students have other criteria than quality in the choice of where they will attend university (especially location, and in particular the distance to their place of residence).

In their discussion, the authors indicate that this shows that competition on the basis of quality is not really taking place in the Netherlands. One reaction could be that the government should enable universities to compete on the basis of price. In other words, universities should be able to set their own tuition fees. This is currently not allowed for Dutch and EU students and the government decided last week that this will not be possible in the near future.

I could pose an alternative hypothesis on the interpretation of the results. The results show that students don’t take quality of education into account in their decision-making process. This could indicate that students don’t purchase a service (a high quality education), but a product (a degree). Universities should therefore emphasise the quality of their degrees, not the quality of their education. If the value of the degree differs per university (reflected in the opportunities to enter the labour market in higher positions or on a higher remuneration), the students will take this into account. This then would mean that universities are better of improving their position in rankings, attracting more prestigious scholars (like Nobel laureates) and increase their budget for marketing. This will bring them a in a better competitive position. On the other hand… maybe economics doesn’t provide answers for everything…

Erjen van Nierop, Peter Verhoef, Philip Hans Franses. Studie Evaluaties en marktaandelen van universiteiten (subscription required). Economisch Statistische Berichten, 4 April 2008.

A Teacher Certificate for New Academics?

Posted by Eric on January 24th, 2008

Some more interesting news from the Netherlands. According to an article in Dutch newspaper the Volkskrant, new teachers at Dutch universities will need to get a teaching certificate. All universities will require starting assistant professors/lecturers to get such a certificate within a few years from the start of their position. At one university – that already used a similar system – early career academics spend around 260 hours for the teacher training.

I’m happy with the attention given to teaching, especially because of the current over-emphasis on research (because it is easily quantifiable and internationally comparable). But 260 hours…? Two or three weeks would be enough, I would think. I already heard one Dutch academic on radio expressing fears for ‘the terrorism of educationalists’…

But what I am most surprised about is the fact that the training is meant for those that will start an assistant professorship or lecturer position. I am sure that this will be a major distraction for early career academics. Considering that a Ph.D. is a normal requirement for this position, why not integrate the training in the Ph.D.? Considering that the Dutch Ph.D. training is predominantly research based (as opposed to course-based), there should be some time to include a couple of weeks of teacher training in that.

And one more question for my readers: do you know of any other countries that require a similar teaching qualification for starting assistant professors or lecturers?

After 9/11 the number of international students in the US dropped considerably due stricter visa requirements and security regulations. Just now that the US is relaxing the regulations, the Netherlands seems to become more restrictive towards international students, at least those from specific countries.

My former university – the University of Twente – this week announced that they had rejected a number of Iranian students and that they will not be able to process new applications from Iranian students. Is the University of Twente (UT) getting paranoid? No! They are acting according to a United Nations resolution and a following decision by the Dutch Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They had requested universities to give a formal guarantee that the Iranian visa applicants do not have access to certain specific scientific knowledge (read: nuclear knowledge). UT’s president explained:

Students have the right to attend all courses and they should be able to develop freely. We don’t want to exclude students from education and therefore we cannot give the guarantee that the Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs demand from us. (…) As a university we cannot exclude the possibility that Iranians will be exposed to nuclear knowledge. We can’t control that.


All the best for 2008!

Posted by Eric on December 31st, 2007

It’s that time of the year again. Looking back upon the things that happened and thinking about the things to come. Sydney is busy preparing for the new year’s eve celebrations and so am I. But at the same time I’m thinking about the changes that are going to come in 2008.

And there will be some important ones. First of all, I’ll be moving back to the Netherlands. After three years, my fellowship at the University of Sydney is coming to an end and so is my stay in wonderful Sydney. As from March this year, I will call The Hague my new home. And another major change for 2008 is me leaving academia. After working in universities for almost 10 years, it’s time for a change. But more about that later. For now, I wish all readers a great new year’s eve and all the best for 2008!!!


The Most Powerful Dutch Universities

Posted by Eric on October 7th, 2007

Dutch newspaper the ‘Volkskrant’ has published its annual list of the 200 most influential Dutch people. The list portrays the Dutch ‘old boys network’ that rules the Netherlands through its interpersonal networks and interlocking boards and directorates. Clearly, the strength of weak ties at work; but how are these ties connected to the Dutch universities?

Topping the list this year was Alexander Rinnooy Kan, Chairman of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER). His current profile lists chairmanships/memberships of a wide variety of boards and councils, ranging from multinationals to business schools and from museums to hospitals.

The list is assembled according to a network analysis by the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and uses a database of over 8,000 persons. The ranking is based on more than 5000 positions in 1098 bodies in 518 organisations in various sectors. The Queen, Dutch Ministers and Members of Parliament are excluded from the list. For a further explanation of the methodology, have a look here (in Dutch).

I decided to have a closer look at the top 100 and their connections to the Dutch higher education landscape. If we first have a look at the Alma Maters of these powerful individuals, the graph below shows that Leiden University (the oldest university in the Netherlands) has awarded the most degrees to the list. 19 out of 100 attended Leiden University. Interesting detail is that 15 of them studied Law in Leiden (making this club the low countries’ equivalent of the Skull & Bones??).


Brussels Sprouts and Meatballs…

Posted by Eric on September 28th, 2007

While the rest of the world is concerned with petty issues like the quality of education, access to education, excellence in education, etc, some enlightened patriots with a judaeo-christian heritage xenophobic Dutch Members of Parliament see to it that their Ministry of Education deals with the questions that really matter. Here’s a translation of the formal letter to the deputy minister of education [pdf]:

Questions of Members Wilders and Bosma for the Deputy Minister of Education, Culture and Sciences, Mrs. Bijsterveldt-Vliegenthart about Halal-meals during a school outing of an ROC (ROC stands for Regional Vociational Schools):

  1. Are you aware that students of the ROC Amsterdam were only served halal meat during their school outing and that this is confirmed by the ROC?
  2. Do you share the opinion that halal meat should not be a main component of a meal at a school outing of a Dutch school?
  3. Do you share the opinion that the muslims at our schools should adapt to the Dutch norms and values and not the other way around? If not, why not?
  4. Who will be responsible for the additional costs of the (more expensive) halal meat?
  5. What do you plan to do in order to prevent students from being forced into a halal barbecue?
  6. How will you deal with the ROC Amsterdam?

For people who think this is a joke: unfortunately IT’S NOT! This is apparently what really matters in Dutch education, according to Geert Wilders and his disciples.

Let’s raise the dikes, close the gates, shut down the kebab joints, pizzerias and noodlehouses and enjoy the brussels sprouts and meatbals!

Things have changed

Posted by Eric on July 30th, 2007

Not many blog posts these days…and that won’t change too much in the next few weeks. I’m working hard to finish two papers for two conferences next month in Austria and Ireland. Before the conferences, I’ll be in the Netherlands for a few weeks.

And talking about the Netherlands… During my frequent short term writer’s blocks I stumbled upon this video called “Sex, Drugs and Democracy”, a documentary about the liberal nature of Dutch society. At least…. the way it was in 1994. It starts with the usual stuff. By now, everyone probably heard about the sex and the drug policies in the Netherlands, so skip that.

A small part – related to society and politics – is actually quite interesting. When I watched the part I thought I was watching a video from the 1980s. And that was not only because of the hairdo (I did know our hair in the eighties was rather ridiculous, but apparently the same goes for the nineties). This part of the documentary illustrates how a society can change in just over 10 years. I’m sure that the movie is rather one-sided even for that time. But still, it’s been a long time since I have seen Dutch people being so proud about:


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