NHL Stenden no longer offers Dutch degrees in Qatar

Freitag 28 Juni 2019

The Education Inspectorate today published a study on degrees awarded to students from the Qatar campus of NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. NHL Stenden takes the critique seriously, and has implemented the necessary measures.

Different approach after criticism from Education Inspectorate

NHL Stenden chooses a new approach to education in Qatar. A clear distinction is to be made between local education and the associated degree in Qatar on the one hand, and the Dutch education and the associated Dutch degree on the other (in accordance with the Higher Education

and Research Act (Wet op het hoger onderwijs en wetenschappelijk onderzoek, or ‘WHW’)). Upon completion of their study programmes, the students in Qatar receive a local Qatari degree, instead of a Dutch degree. This approach means that NHL Stenden will no longer apply the 25% regulation.

President of the Executive Board Erica Schaper: “When the inspection report was announced, I said that we would take action if the report indicated that improvements were needed. Now that the quality control appears to have been insufficient, we will intervene and stop awarding Dutch degrees in Qatar. We cannot accept any misgivings about the quality and graduation requirements of our curriculum. It goes without saying that we take this issue very seriously.”

Administration for exemption grants not always clear

As the Inspectorate also notes, in recent years Stenden University, which merged with NHL University of Applied Sciences in 2018, has taken the necessary measures to ensure that implementation processes proceed appropriately. The Inspectorate’s final report for 2014 concluded that ‘the final level of the current students is assured’. At the time, Stenden arrived at an interpretation of the applicable legal framework. Now, it appears that this interpretation has resulted in some ambiguity, as the university of applied sciences has not succeeded in demonstrating conclusively that the quality of the execution has been sufficiently guaranteed for the Qatar campus. Exemptions have not always been granted in an administratively clear manner. NHL Stenden regrets these circumstances, and accepts full responsibility by taking immediate action to rectify them.

Clarity regarding legal framework

Over the years, the former Stenden University of Applied Sciences has often played a pioneering role in shaping and giving substance to the internationalisation of higher education. As the Minister states in her policy reply: “Moreover, the NHL Stenden case shows that the regulations stipulated in the policy brief can be interpreted in a number of ways. It also appears that this room for interpretation can result in an insufficient guarantee of the quality of a Dutch degree.” In her policy reply, the Minister clearly indicates where the problem areas lie, and NHL Stenden is pleased with the manner in which she aims to provide clarity about the legal framework in the future.

Supplementary investigations

In the autumn, NHL Stenden will release an action plan to guide and formulate the new approach. This action plan will also be based on supplementary external investigations that NHL Stenden has commissioned at the Inspectorate’s request, as the Inspectorate does not have the authority to conduct an investigation in Qatar. A law practice will investigate the reports of irregularities at the campus in Qatar. In addition, NHL Stenden will commission a study by an accountant into the separation between private activities and public resources in relation to Qatar.

NHL Stenden has also asked an independent Review and Evaluation Body (VBI) to conduct an extra study of the education quality control system and the examination system at the Qatar campus during the period 2016-2018. All of the studies mentioned here are part of the consistent efforts the university of applied sciences has made since 2012 to initiate external studies of the reports received and to respond to them.

Erica Schaper: “The results of these external investigations will be submitted this autumn, and if any issues arise from these studies, we will once again implement suitable measures.”

About NHL Stenden

NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences was created when NHL and Stenden merged on 1 January 2018. The new institution has over 24,000 students, with 280 students in Qatar,  and 2,200 employees and has 12 locations in the Netherlands and abroad.

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Opinion of the Executive Board

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Summary Qatar inspection report

330.29 KB (.PDF)