India: great potential for Erasmus University

India: great potential for Erasmus University

To attract more foreign students, the Project Group Internationalisation is focusing specifically on Spain, Mexico, the UK, and India. Project manager Sandra Nijhof explains why she’s looking at India, while an Indian student and an alumna describe their experiences with the Netherlands.

TEXT: Dennis Mijnheer
PHOTO Sandra Nijhof: Charlie De Keersmaecker

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Name: Sandra Nijhof
Age: 54
Study: Dutch language and literature (Radboud), Public Relations (University of Utrecht), Marketing (University of Tilburg)
Career: Country manager India, Erasmus University

India is firmly on Rotterdam’s radar. Last November a delegation went to Mumbai. Delegates represented the City of Rotterdam, Rotterdam Harbour and Erasmus University. ‘We expect to sign an agreement this Spring to set up a collaboration between Erasmus University and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Based on that collaboration, we have an opportunity to expand existing academic research. It also means we can start an exchange programme for students,’ says Nijhof, who works as a marketing and communication manager at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague. Picking India makes sense. ‘Half of India’s population is under 25, speaks English, and many young people who enjoyed higher education want to study abroad. That means an enormous potential for Erasmus University.’ The university already organised several road shows in India. ‘We participated in some education fairs in a various Indian cities, organised a webinar for future Indian bachelor and master students and we re-established connections with our Indian alumni. They are our true ambassadors.’

Internships rock
Indian students show a fairly broad interest in Erasmus University, according to Nijhof. ‘We noticed students show a strong interest in Business Administration and Business Economics, but also in Development studies, and studies aimed at art, culture and history garner a lot of attention. Many Indian students are eager to apply for internships in the Netherlands after their bachelor’s or master’s.’ Desirables include multinationals with a Dutch office, as well as NGOs and institutes like the International Court of Justice. Are tuition fees an issue? ‘Not for every Indian student, although it may be an obstacle for some. That’s why we’re happy to have several scholarships available for Indian applicants, the Orange Tulip Scholarship for example.’ The one thing that may present a challenge is the intake. Nijhof: ‘The educational system in India is particularly diverse, with several types of diplomas and grade lists in circulation. But we’ve teamed up with a specialist who knows Indian education like the back of their hand.’ 

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Name: Pallavi Varma Patil
Age: 41
Study: Alumna Development Studies (Major: Public Policy and Management), International Institute of Social Studies
Career: Teacher at Azim Premji University in Bangalore

Before Indian alumna Pallavi Varma Patil ended up in The Hague, she already had a whole career behind her. She obtained her bachelor Economics in India and found employment as an aid worker at the Childline India Foundation, an NGO concerned with child protection. In this capacity she visited a conference in Amsterdam. That set the wheels in motion. ‘I told my boss, who was married to a Dutchman, that I wanted to go back to university. She advised me to go get more information at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague,’ says Varma Patil, who applied in 2004 for the master programme Development Studies. The Indian alumna waxes lyrical about the Netherlands. ‘It was so inspiring, I thought the Netherlands was such a futuristic place. All of a sudden there I was, in a country with a regard for green technology and a great focus on healthcare. Another thing that appealed to me was the fact that people would rather get on their bicycle than just drive everywhere by car. And the idea that parents teach their children how to look at art.’

Shiploads of books
Varma Patil says that she experienced no problems at all when it came to mingling with Dutch students. ‘Everybody spoke English really well and seemed open to meeting new people. I felt at home straight away.’ The curriculum was also valuable to her. Literally. ‘It costs me a lot of money to send my study materials back to India,’ she says, laughing. ‘Some of the books I use to this day.’ She’s noticed that an ever-increasing number of Indian students is keen to go and study abroad. ‘The Indian middle class is expanding. What I hear all around me is that students from India consider America their number one destination to get an education, with Europe in second place. They tend to look at Germany and the UK. But when it comes to Business Adminstration and Engineering, the Netherlands is a great option as well. It’s an accessible way to get to know Europe, as well as a small enough country to explore thoroughly.’ 

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Name: Sambhavi Mathiyazhagan
Age: 18
Study: International Bachelor Communication & Media

Sambhavi was born in Chennai, India and has been in university since September. Before leaving for the Netherlands, she was enrolled in International Boarding School in Coimbatore. The Netherlands -  she only knew it by name. She’d never heard of Rotterdam. Two countries were vying for her favours: the Netherlands and the UK. ‘I like to travel and it seemed more convenient to explore the rest of Europe if I were based in the Netherlands,’ explains the student, who visited Paris, Barcelona and Belgium during the last six months alone. Another important consideration was choosing an education that fit her aspirations. ‘It had to be something to do with media, because I want to be a journalist. The International Bachelor Communication & Media seemed like a good fit for my interests and ambitions.’ A need for independence also contributed to her choice to leave India. ‘An Indian university will hand you a book with the instruction to absorb the contents. The method they use for studying is very scripted. I didn’t want that.’ Here, she enjoys freedom of movement. ‘My studies are a lot more flexible, they offer an exchange programme, there’s an internship, and you’re expected to conduct research independently. That approach is much better suited to my personality.’

Great plans
Mathiyazhagan lives on campus. So far, her first six months in Rotterdam have been a good experience. She still has all kinds of plans. ‘I hope to visit many more cities in Europa and I’m looking forward to my exchange programme, and the internship. Next year I also hope to find a place to live off-campus, and in 2020, I intend to finish my bachelor. At this point I’m not sure if I’ll be going back to India. I’m hoping to find a job at an international lifestyle magazine, or a blog.’ 

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Popular universities

A study by Nuffic showed that for the academic year of 2016/2017, most students from India enrolled at TU Delft (46%). At no. 2 is TU Eindhoven (17%) and at no. 3 Erasmus University (6%). 
In 2017, 112 Indian students enrolled at Erasmus University. The most popular faculties are the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus School of Economics (ESE), Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Institute for Housing and Urban Studies (IHS) as well as the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC).

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Broad horizons