University cancels all foreign exchanges for students

30 Jun 2020

Students who were hoping for six months in Madrid, Münster or Manchester can shelve their plans (and suitcases) for the time being. The university will not be allowing any foreign exchange visits in the first semester of the new academic year.

Students who had planned to fly out to a foreign university in the first semester of the new academic year will have to change their plans. Radboud University has decided not to allow any exchanges next year. International students who had wanted to come to Nijmegen are not welcome for the time being.

‘The major reason for this decision is that we cannot guarantee the quality of the exchange,’ says Elco van Noort, interim head of International Office. ‘An important factor in being able to guarantee the quality of the exchange is meeting other students. At present, no-one knows to what degree that will be possible.’

The limited flexibility of a foreign exchange programme also plays an important part, according to Van Noort. Whereas a normal study programme can be moved around when a course or assignment can’t take place, that’s more or less impossible in an exchange lasting only six months.

Disappointment

According to Nuffic, the organisation for internationalisation in education, many students had already changed their plans themselves. A survey showed that half of the Dutch students had already changed their plans to go abroad next year. A third had decided to postpone the foreign stay.

That doesn’t change the fact that there are still students who were planning to go on an exchange. Radboud University is keeping that group at home too. ‘We want to be clear,’ says Van Noort. ‘Going abroad involves a lot of organisation; students have to give up their accommodation and part-time jobs for example.’ The risk of disappointment is too great, according to Van Noort, partly because more and more foreign universities are deciding to refuse exchanges. Not only that, but the university doesn’t want to be caught unawares by a possible second wave of coronavirus infections.

Nijmegen students who want to go abroad next year for something other than an exchange, for example an internship or research assignment, may well be able to go. Van Noort: ‘The study programme or faculty will have to tailor each case and adhere to the travel advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.’

Coming and going

There are students coming and going in Nijmegen each academic year. This year, 752 Nijmegen students chose to go on an exchange programme abroad, while Radboud University welcomed 631 international exchange students. The large majority of them, around two thirds, make use of the Erasmus+ programme, but there are also exchange programmes with universities outside Europe.

The fact that exchange students are not being accepted now doesn’t mean that there will be no international students in Nijmegen. Anyone enrolling for a regular study programme is welcome as usual.

Van Noort admits that the fact that there will be scarcely no opportunity for physical encounters during the orientation week is a worry for the university. After all, there is a risk of loneliness among international students. ‘The orientation week is really important for international students. It’s the run-up to having a social safety net and network. We’re trying to still come up with some solutions for that, but the orientation is not going to be as extensive as usual.’

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