Students are not happy about the level of internationalisation at many universities of applied sciences, according to the Dutch National Student Survey 2017. And Avans is no exception. “A score of 3.03 is unworthy of Avans”, says Executive Board Member Jacomine Ravensbergen.
Last year, the Dutch National Student Survey (NSS) included four questions about internationalisation. It asked about the extent to which students’ courses encouraged them to spend time abroad to study or experience a foreign culture – something which Avans scored particularly badly on. However, the institution did score better on questions about the focus of study programmes on international aspects and the opportunities to study or work abroad.
Students are not happy about the level of internationalisation overall. In the survey, universities of applied sciences scored an average of 3.17 out of 5 on internationalisation. Avans scored lower than average, with 3.03. “This score is unworthy of Avans”, says Executive Board Member Jacomine Ravensbergen. “We need to score at least a 3.5.”
Broader internationalisation policy
“When it comes to internationalisation, many students think that just means spending time abroad”, says Ravensbergen, whose responsibilities includes internationalisation. “Avans’s policy on internationalisation is much broader and especially relates to the international perspective of students’ future professions.”
Ravensbergen believes that spending time abroad can provide excellent learning experiences. “If this kind of exchange takes the form of a minor, then of course it does not necessarily have to be linked to the programme or the future profession.”
‘I expect the ratio between outgoing and incoming students to improve’
More Avans students are heading abroad to study a minor than there are international students coming here. “That is largely because of the range of English-speaking minors available. It took a while before there was a real choice for international students in this area at Avans. That has since been improved, so I expect the ratio between outgoing and incoming students to improve too. Ideally, we would have a more or less balanced ratio.”
Students coming from abroad need to find somewhere to live. Avans cannot guarantee them accommodation, but it does try to help students by pointing them in the right direction. “We understand how difficult it is for international students to find a room themselves, especially coming here for the first time. They receive special attention from the study programmes and the International Office, but ultimately they are the ones responsible for signing their tenancy agreement.” Avans has arrangements in place with housing associations, which have rooms available at an affordable price. “That might be easier in one city than in another. Landlords don’t always like dealing with international students.”
Students from the entire world
The English-language bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Avans and the Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy attract students from across the entire world. “The International Business and ESSET programmes, and the Fine Art and Design School|St.Joost masters’ are renowned all over the globe. The new Industrial Engineering and Management programme has huge growth potential.”
‘Ideally, English-language bachelor’s courses would consist of 50% international students’
In the past, Avans targeted potential students from specific countries. Now, the institution is looking at each study programme individually to see where and how recruitment efforts should be focused. “Ideally, English-language bachelor’s courses would consist of 50% international students. That is really important to maintain the international character of the study programmes.”
The university of applied sciences still does target specific geographical areas. Most students come from and head to Europe, but Avans has a number of partners in emerging economies such as Asia and previously in South America. This often results in partnerships with universities there, because those regions are interesting for business in the Netherlands, specifically for North Brabant. “We can see that internationalisation is gaining ground in the region.”
For a while, programmes didn’t share their contacts abroad with other Avans courses. “But that is now changing. Avans had this island mentality for a long time, but now we are working together with others more closely and more frequently.”