Lower House MP: “Internationalisation, a necessary condition”

During a working visit on 21 January to The Hague University of Applied Sciences & THUAS Campus at Leiden University, CDA MP Harry van der Molen held discussions with students, a professor, a rector and a policy advisor to find out about the use and necessity of internationalisation and global citizenship in higher education.

Internationalisation and encouraging global citizenship are focal points at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. International skills increase students’ language skills, ensure they come into contact with other cultures, encourage critical thinking and offer added value to the future internationally-oriented employment market.

Positive criticism

As spokesperson for higher education in the Lower House, Harry van der Molen adopts a positive, critical attitude towards internationalisation and global citizenship. “I visit many educational institutions to gain a good insight into how internationalisation works in practice. I talk to staff, but mainly to students. What are their experiences with internationalisation? What can be improved? How does internationalisation work in practice and what are the facts about Anglicisation in higher education?”

DNA of a degree programme

According to Eveke de Louw, Internationalisation Policy Advisor, internationalisation is a “necessary condition” to organise future-oriented education. “It is enriching and provides better quality higher education. Internationalisation is more than giving lessons in English. It is in a degree programme’s DNA.”
Dylan Kraijenoord, European Studies student, agrees, “A learning process that transcends borders helps to qualify for international jobs. As such, I followed an exchange programme in Estonia last year. Alongside which, I followed the subject International Communication. These competencies have given me a broader perspective. Together with my international experience, I think I have a good chance of getting a job at an international organisation, such as Europol.”

Twenty-first century skills

“Internationalisation is not a goal in itself”, states Jos Beelen, Global Learning professor at THUAS. “It is a means to acquire 21st-century skills.” They are all summed up in the overview of the Top 10 expected competencies in 2020 from the World Economic Forum that he brought with him. “Internationalisation helps, for instance, with developing critical thinking and a problem-solving approach, intercultural communication and negotiation.”

Customisation

The fact competencies differ per degree programme means that internationalisation is about customisation. “We must take into account the authenticity of a degree programme”, emphasises Maria Toko, European Studies student and vice-chair of the General Council. According to Maria, the perception of internationalisation and global citizenship differs per degree programme. “An international exchange or internship abroad is not the most obvious thing for most students. If you follow that through to global citizenship, then not all students see how it works in practice.”
According to Eveke de Louw, internationalisation does not necessarily mean going abroad. “Internationalisation at home is a great example of how the local area can be involved. Then we are talking about increasing social cohesion in a district here around the corner.
“At THUAS,” adds chair of the Executive Board, Leonard Geluk, “the focal point is the future of a profession. We want to form flexible people. To cultivate awareness of an individual’s baggage and increase understanding for other cultures and religions. And learn to communicate in order to understand one another.”

Mix and match

“To position internationalisation in education well,” concludes Harry van der Molen, “you have to mix and match. It is a challenge to find the added value for every individual student.” It is therefore important that internationalisation is designed carefully, according to the MP. “That creates a healthy countermovement to Anglicisation. As far as I am concerned, language education could be more diverse, with more attention for French and German. We must guard against focusing excessively on the Anglo Saxon culture.”

Added value

According to Carel Stolker, Magnificus rector and chair of the Executive Board at Leiden University, “There definitely needs to be a certain balance between the English language and German or French. And yet, in a sometimes critical political and social debate we must also see the added value of internationalisation. As the trading nation of the Netherlands we are building up an enormous network of graduates. Deep into China, we have ambassadors who know the Netherlands and the Dutch. And that is extremely valuable in a world that is currently crumbling.”