New version of the 2024 Code of Conduct for Higher Education

On 1 January 2024, a new version of the Code of Conduct for International Students in Higher Education will enter into effect. In 2022, following an intensive evaluation, a new version of the Code of Conduct for Higher Education was adopted. The adoption of another new text one year later is due to one of the recommendations resulting from the evaluation mentioned above, which stated the necessity of a thorough revision of the language overview as contained in the Code of Conduct for Higher Education. In this article you can read more about which procedure was followed and which amendments are provided for in the new version.

The procedure

Over the past year, the policy advisors for the umbrella organisations Dutch Council for Training and Education (NRTO), Universities of the Netherlands (UNL), the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, and the office of the National Code of Conduct Commission, prepared a draft text for a new version of the Code of Conduct for Higher Education. The preliminary and final discussions about the draft were held at senior-official level, and the policy advisors of the umbrella organisations obtained input from their members at various times. The decision-making process was as follows:

  • Advisory role for the Ministries of Education, Culture and Science, and Justice and Security, as well as the IND, in connection with related laws and regulations and the interest these parties have in the Code of Conduct for Higher Education.
    On 30 November 2023, these parties issued a positive recommendation with regard to the draft text. The policy advisors were also involved in the development of the Standard for Language Tests at various times.
  • Agreement of the National Commission.
    On 11 October 2023, the National Code of Conduct Committee approved the draft text of the Code of Conduct for Higher Education.
  • Decision-making by umbrella organisations NRTO, UNL and the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences.
    Decision-making by the umbrella organisations took place in the period of mid-November to mid-December 2023. Each umbrella organisation acted in accordance with its own internal decision-making procedure in this.

Did you know that…

the umbrella organisations are the founders of the Code of Conduct for International Students of Higher Education? This means they are also the owners of this text.


The draft text for the 2024 Code of Conduct for Higher Education contains three major amendments and a number of changes that are of a more textual nature:

1)           Paragraph 5 provides for the introduction of the Standard for Language Tests in the language overview of the Code of Conduct for Higher Education. With the introduction of this standard, the table containing language tests will be removed from the body of the text of the Code of Conduct and instead included in an addendum to the Code of Conduct.

This amendment provides for a procedure that allows language test providers admission to the Code of Conduct for Higher Education. The reason for this is that the umbrella organisations and the National Commission have received multiple requests in recent years from language test providers requesting admission to the language overview in the Code of Conduct for Higher Education. Considering the open European market we find ourselves in and the increasing number of language test providers, we aim to consider these request in accordance with a procedure designed for this purpose. The National Commission and the umbrella organisations value the fact that this is done in an objective and, above all, a conscientious manner. After all, English language proficiency is an indisputably relevant component of the assessment of the admission of prospective students. For this reason, it is important that education institutions and prospective students can rely on the results of language tests.

The development of the standard was assigned to an independent organisation: Hobéon. The standard includes, among other things, requirements regarding the quality that the language test provider and the language test should meet. The process of validation is further elaborated on in the process description. Every year from 1 October until 1 April, language test providers can submit a request to have their language test included in the language overview. This period was determined so that the decision on which language tests can be accepted into the framework of the Code of Conduct for Higher Education for the year in question can be made before 1 October. The standard includes a mandatory certification/recertification after six years. The umbrella organisations have agreed that this new standard and process description must be evaluated after five years.

Mid January 2024, more information will be published about this procedure on the website of the Code of Conduct for Higher Education.

2)           In Article 6.2 of the 2022 Code of Conduct for Higher Education, a provision was already included that education institutions may provide education to international students, of which the degree is based on an international legal regulation. This provision follows from Article 15.7 (1), sub c, of the Higher Education and Research Act. Until now, this was provided for based on a list of international accreditation organisations. The new 2024 Code of Conduct for Higher Education aligns with the working method of the Inspectorate of Education. The Inspectorate will check whether an international legal regulation is present. In addition education institutions are obligated to provide information about this international legal regulation to students and prospective students, the degree the programme awards,  as well as about the consequences of a lack of accreditation by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO).

It is important that in the information provision to prospective students and in issuing the degree, it is clear which degree the programme awards and which international regulation it is based on. This also means that it should become clear which foreign accreditation applies to the degree programme and in which country the degree is issued, or which foreign institution issues the degree. The National Commission greatly values good information provision to students about the education they will be receiving and the degree they will receive upon graduation. We expect that this will be guaranteed with this working method.

The previous means that the list with foreign accreditation organisations will no longer be used as of 1 January 2024.

3)           Artikel 6.6 was amended so education institutions can excuse students in preparatory education or in the pre-Master’s. This amendment follows from EU Directive 2016/801 of the European Parliament and the Council of 11 May 2016 regarding requirements for the access to education and permission to stay in the Netherlands for third-country nationals in the context of their studies.

This Directive states that any decision to withdraw a residence permit must take account of the specific circumstances of the case and the principle of proportionality must be respected – Article 21, paragraph 7. This means that a student should not be deregistered from the IND solely for the reason that the student did not complete their preparatory education within one year. The Directive provides that account should be taken of the specific situation of the student.

The Aliens Act Implementation Guidelines paragraph B3.4 has also been amended to align with EU Directive 2016/801.

But what does this mean for current students in preparatory education? This concerns an amendment that follows from EU laws and regulations. Agreement was reached with the Ministry of Justice & Security and the IND to allow current students holding residence permits (academic years 2022-2023 and 2023-2024) in preparatory education to be excused by their education institution, in the event that this is required due to the student’s personal circumstances.

Incidentally, the National Commission understands that the amendment has led to questions from student counsellors and student advisors. The National Commission understands that this expansion of the option to excuse to include preparatory education requires efforts on the part of the education institutions, but at the same time it wishes to emphasise that this is a necessary amendment following from an EU Directive. In addition, an education institution is not obligated to excuse a student. The student must be able to show that there are personal circumstances that prevented them from making enough study progress, in accordance with Article 7.51 of the Higher Education and Research Act and Article 2.1 of the Higher Education and Scientific Research Act Implementation Decree. The principle is and maintains that preparatory education should have a maximum duration of one year, in which the year can only be extended in the event that a student counsellor or advisor believes that the issue resulted from the student’s personal circumstances.

In summary, the 2024 Code of Conduct for Higher Education provides for three amendments: The implementation of the Standard for Language Tests in the language overview of the Code of Conduct, the possibility of providing education based on an international legal regulation and the obligation to provide clear information on this matter, and the option to excuse in preparatory education. If you have any questions and/or comments regarding these amendments, you can contact the policy advisor responsible in your umbrella organisation. If your education institution is not represented by an umbrella organisation, you can email your questions to the National Commission office.