Six months ago, the Committee published its latest news item on the evaluation of the text of the Code of Conduct and the performance of the various parties involved in the Code. That item included details of the design of the evaluation and the way in which educational institutions and other interested parties in the Code of Conduct were consulted. It also reported that we started the second part of the evaluation in mid-2021. That part focuses in particular on the performance, roles, and relationships of the various parties involved in the Code of Conduct. It concerns the relations and relationships between the Committee, its secretariat, the registry administrator, and the umbrella organizations, as well as the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), the Ministry of Justice and Security (J&V), and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). Victor Rutgers, an external consultant, has been engaged to advise the Committee and various umbrella organizations on this aspect.
During the past two years, in the pressure-cooker environment of corona, tensions have arisen between the umbrella organizations concerning the implementation of the Code of Conduct. They each had different ideas about approaches to the compulsory language tests, and with regard to the survey report on the preparatory year. The second part of the evaluation focuses on cooperation between the parties involved in the Code of Conduct and on how we might coordinate our efforts in future, while optimizing implementation of the Code and safeguarding our relationship with international students. In addition, a number of complex topics have been identified that will need to be amended in the text of the Code of Conduct. This matter is already the subject of active discussions. For instance, there is the optimalization of the language overview and the chapter on cooperation with agents and private providers.
International Student Advisory Council
At the time of writing, the final touches are being put to the advisory report. However, we can already share some of its findings. The Committee has expressed a wish to give international students a more central and formal role in its work. In mid-October 2021, in cooperation with the Committee’s secretariat, Victor Rutgers held a meeting to which international students from the student councils of various educational institutions were invited, as well as representatives of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), the Dutch National Student Association (Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg or ISO), and the Dutch Student Union (LSVb). The meeting focused on two main issues. 1) How can you ensure that international students become more formally involved in the Code of Conduct and in the work of the Committee? 2) What extra topics would you like to see included in the text of the Code of Conduct? A number of excellent proposals were put forward during this lively and, above all, useful meeting. The answer to the first question could be an advisory council made up of international students from the student councils of various educational institutions, as well as representatives of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), the Dutch National Student Association (ISO), and the Dutch Student Union (LSVb). The National Committee could then consult this advisory council, which would meet about twice a year. This could involve the periodic survey into the provision of information, in which the views of international students are particularly relevant. In addition, complex themes can be submitted for discussion. In attempting to answer the second question, the students specifically discussed topics that they would like to see included in information provision. The students stated that they would like to be better informed about accommodation, what to do in the event of psychological problems, the options for integrating with Dutch students, and the conditions under which international students are permitted to work in the Netherlands. The students also emphasized the relevance of efforts to make students more aware of the Code of Conduct. After all, international students benefit from the rights and obligations set out in this document. Victor Rutgers will further refine the above points, in the form of recommendations.
Relations and relationships
A meeting was also held that included the umbrella organizations’ policy advisors, a delegation from the Committee, and the secretariat. Policy advisors from the Ministry of Justice and Security (J&V) and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) were invited to attend part of the meeting, to present their views concerning the Code of Conduct. The meeting focused mainly on cooperation between the parties involved in the Code of Conduct and their interrelationships. The meeting addressed the importance in decision-making to determine whether a given topic is a core aspect of the Code of Conduct or whether it is more closely associated with the Code’s provisions. This influences factors such as the degree of operational leeway enjoyed by the educational institutions. The meeting also discussed the benefits of holding frequent informal meetings with the Committee, umbrella organizations, the secretariat and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), the Ministry of Justice and Security (J&V), and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). The Code of Conduct touches both on legislation in the field of education and legislation concerning aliens. This means that it is vital to hold regular discussions about potential risks, any bottlenecks that are encountered, and visions regarding internationalization. In more specific terms, the discrepancy between the Higher Education and Research Act and the Aliens Act has been identified as a topic that merits fresh consideration. Finally, discussions were held about the procedures to be followed in the event that the umbrella organizations are unable to reach agreement on a given topic, at official level. As things stand, this brings decision-making processes to a standstill. The possibility has been discussed of establishing a separate layer at directorship level. This will enable topics to be advanced to the next layer if an umbrella organization’s policy advisor deems it necessary. This instrument is only intended for use in exceptional cases.
The next step is for the Committee to enter into discussions with the umbrella organizations concerning the recommendations put forward by Victor Rutgers. Joint discussions will be held to consider which recommendations to follow, and how. Some of the recommendations will be translated into the text of the Code of Conduct, others will be laid down in the form of working agreements. The goal is to submit the new version of the text of the Code of Conduct for approval in March/April 2022. In the meantime, the umbrella organizations will see to it that their members are consulted and informed about any proposed changes to the text of the Code of Conduct.
We will keep you informed of any new developments regarding the evaluation by means of this newsletter. You will also be notified once the new version of the Code of Conduct has been adopted. In the meantime, do you have any questions or suggestions concerning the evaluation? If so, please contact the responsible policy advisor at your umbrella organization. In the event that your educational institution is not represented by an umbrella organization, you can contact the Committee’s secretariat.