For the past month, I have been waking up in a new apartment. At this point, it probably barely fits the category of ‘new apartment’ anymore. After all, the boxes are unpacked and most of my friends have been introduced: ‘That’s where I’m living now.’
I spent more than three years in my last apartment and I can stay for two more in this new one. And now, slowly but steadily, I will have to really think about where I will eventually live. Which is, if you’ve ever had to do it (and most students have), a very interesting thought process. But at least it’s perfectly timed – if you believe a recent NOS article about the Tweede Kamer discussions concerning international students in the Netherlands and, more precisely, how to get them to go away again.
Now, I’m an international student living in the Netherlands. I’m also working here, speak the language and eat the occasional frikandelbroodje. And for some reason, it’s my fault that no one has paid enough attention to building social housing and restricting the growth of universities over the past decades. Yes, Dutch and English language programmes.
‘A lecture hall should not be filled with only Germans or Chinese’, according to VVD-politician Van der Woude, quoted in the NOS article. Well, that’s awkward. I’m as German as they come. I am in a relationship with an Italian, but once you know one of them, you will realise that they are everywhere too – they’ve just been flying under the radar. Greeks as well. And don’t get me started on the Estonians. Everyone knows at least one Estonian here.
‘Everyone knows at least one Estonian here’
One would expect that a cabinet led by a prime minister who holds a master’s in history would have a better grasp of historical causes and their very contemporary effects. If you, for example, let Dutch students go into immense debt, they won’t be able to move out of their student rooms, let alone build their own houses. And if you tell everyone that they should take a bachelor’s just for the sake of it and then they panic and take a master’s because they don’t know what to do with their bachelor’s and then you end up paying them poorly after graduation, they won’t be either.
English-language programmes and the international students within them are now being painted as the issue that needs to be solved – especially the Germans and the Chinese clogging the lecture halls, am I right? That’s funny, because most English-language programmes do attract a good number of Dutch people too and they are not always larger than their Dutch equivalent. Comparative European History at Radboud? Approximately 15 people in my year. Geschiedenis? About 100. But damn all those Germans and Chinese.
Only 10,6% of degree-seeking students at Radboud are international and we still have a housing crisis. Of course, it’s easy to point fingers at foreigners and tell them to leave. But that’s putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. The Dutch government failed to fix a faulty education system that, at this point, looks like a multi-level marketing scheme. They practiced neoliberalism and now find out that the market, matter-of-factly, didn’t do the work for them. So, please, take the blame, for once in your lives, and handle the consequences. Properly.
Bert wrote on 6 februari 2023 at 18:00
Thank you for this view, which is noticeably lacking in the discussions.