Nuffic- Supporting Internationalization of Higher Education (Dirk Haakman)

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Dirk Haakman, head of public relations of Nuffic, about the importance of internationalization of higher education, the competitiveness of Holland in a global economy and the way how Nuffic – supporting Internationalization of higher education – helps to shape new Dutch immigration laws.

Nuffic is a Dutch non-profit organization that is focused on global cooperation concerning higher education. This independent organization (established on January 11, 1952) was initiated by institutions on higher education with the goal of benefiting educational cooperation in the Netherlands and abroad.

The Dutch government recognizes that demands of the globalization require not only multilingualism but also intercultural skills and attitudes along with academic and professional knowledge, says Dirk Haakman.

We think that the education system should equip Dutch society with necessary competencies, knowledge, understanding, and new skills so that they can constantly negotiate the changing nature of work, the labor force, information technologies and cultural identities of people. We can achieve that by creating an international environment by inviting international students and staff to our country and sending Dutch students abroad so they all will be free from hassles and feel, more or less, in the “Financial Peace University“, says Haakman.

The educational system in the Netherlands is similar to that of other North European countries. It has a binary system composed of research universities and universities of applied sciences. There are 13 research universities and 39 universities of applied science, and altogether the Dutch higher education system offers more than 1500 programs in the English language.

No wonder foreign students recognize Holland as the desired destination and seek opportunities to study here. Currently, the Netherlands hosts over 85,000 studying expats and Nuffic plays also a crucial role in the Erasmus Mundus Indonesia Project.

Nuffic has multiple roles in the process of internationalization, continues Dirk. With 10 offices around the world, we widely promote Dutch universities abroad which is useful because quite a few American schools are looking to get teachers from outside the U.S. Just take a look at one of the organizations we maintain good relations with across the United States, the NYACCE (New York Association for Continuing & Community Education). We visit their conferences and promote their initiatives. We have also a strong representation in Asia and Africa and more and more students come to study here though we also provide teacher volunteer options in, for example, Tanzania.

By organizing study tours for higher education administrators and experts from around the world enrich their understanding of the Dutch higher education’s diversity and bring them together with potential partners.

We strive to find what the next opportunity is for endorsing the Dutch education. Right now we explore more of South America because we think we can attract both students and academic staff from this region. Our focus is on talent acquisition, cooperation among universities and enhancing the process of knowledge creation and exchange in its broadest sense – including understanding other university systems.

Supported by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture & Science and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nuffic partners with governments, international development agencies, foundations, universities, and corporations in leveraging its international networks to collaborate on sustainable solutions for long-term development, a necessary development in a world that has seen a “brain race” now for several years.

Over the past years, Nuffic has tried to influence the Dutch immigration policy. Nowadays,  that is shifting from a restrictive to a more selective policy of admission of foreigners, especially for so-called knowledge workers – high-educated foreigners. And foreign trade asks for foreign language competencies.

And if you think that this is already a lot of activities, there is more. Probably the most well-known services provided by Nuffic are foreign academic qualification recognition and comparison to the Dutch education system. Working on behalf of the Dutch Government, Nuffic provides a range of services which help not only in the admission of international students, but also employers that want to identify the brightest and best employees from outside the Netherlands.

Nuffic makes use of the most effective branding practices. It has a strong social media presence, has an interesting blog and a great visual design shown on their websites and infographics. See also this list of MAHEVA associate partners. You’ll be impressed!

Last but not least, Nuffic is a publisher of “”, a comprehensive guide for aspiring students who want to learn about the perks of living and studying in the Netherlands. is an important source of information about the Netherlands, not only for potential students but also for expats who consider moving to Holland. Monthly the website attracts 80,000 visitors. It was great to talk to Dirk Haakman and learn more about such a noble organization.