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  • Writer's pictureHenrike Laing

Groningen to become a "sleepy provincial city” if government plans go ahead

If the government sharply restricts internationalisation in higher education, Groningen will suffer more than other Dutch cities, according to some students and staff at the University of Groningen.

By mandating that at least one-third of study programs at universities should be offered in Dutch, Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf wants to stem the flow of international students into the country. His aim is to ease the housing problem in the Netherlands and re-establish the position of the Dutch language in higher education and in the culture.

For Groningen, this is significant news as the decision would lead to fewer foreigners coming to study in the Netherlands. It would also mean there would no longer be a meaningful role for many international employees, causing serious problems for the University of Groningen (RUG) and the city itself.

The University of Groningen (RUG), the Hanzehogeschool and the Municipality are planning to develop internationalisation visions together, Bakker says.

“Forty percent of our staff is non-Dutch, and we need them,” the Director of International Strategy & Relations at RUG, Mervin Bakker, explains. “The Netherlands cannot live without them and especially Groningen cannot without them.”

Bakker fears that Groningen, as a city far from the centre of the country, will have less chance of attracting Dutch "top academic talent" to the university, which in turn will affect the university's quality and research output.

Further, Bakker stresses that international students create many jobs and businesses in Groningen, in addition to making Groningen the city it is. “Groningen would be a very sleepy provincial town without our international community.”

Anna Salzman and Amelie Ryan-Borde from the student organisation Studenten Organisatie Groningen also look at the current debate with great concern.

Anna Salzman (left) and Amelie Ryan-Borde fear that the ministers plan would be " a big hit" for Groningen.

While there is agreement on problems to be addressed, the implementation of the minsters plan would be “a downfall", emphasizes Ryan-Borde.

It would plunge the city of Groningen into an economic and identity crisis, they fear. “It will cause a lot of polarisation, separate groups and people not wanting to stay", Salzman warns.

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