Circulation of knowledge: five decades of the Dutch International Education Programme


Circulation of knowledge: five decades of the Dutch International Education Programme

Project description:

Nowadays almost all master programmes are international in character. However, from the 1950s until the end of the 1990s the term ‘International Education’ was used for the international post-graduate and training programme for mid-career personnel from developing countries. It was rooted in the initiatives of the United Nations to offer technical assistance to developing countries. In 1949 the old-prime minister and professor at the Technical University Delft W. Schermerhorn was invited to the UN conference. He was asked to investigate the possibilities for an international training centre for Aerial Survey. In 1951 the International Training Center for Aerial Survey (ITC) was established; the first institute for International Education. Two other institutes followed: in 1952 the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), dedicated to research and training on social change and development in less developed countries. In 1957 the International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE) was set up to make use of the experience of the Netherlands in hydrology. In the 1960s and 1970s institutes with other roots expanded their activities to developing countries. The Netherlands International Institute for Management (Research instituut voor Bedrijfswetenschappen (RVB)), for example, had been created in 1952 under the Marshall Plan to contribute to the development of entrepreneurship in the Netherlands. The Institute for Housing Studies (IHS), which originated as a department of the Bouwcentrum in the 1950s to give courses to Dutch students also started IE. Next to these five institutes also courses from other – often smaller - institutes are included in the International Education Programme (IEP) for which students from less developed received a fellowship in the Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP). Examples are the International Course in Health Development (ICHD) organised since 1964 by the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), the graphic design course and the print production course (in 1979) offered by the Graphic Media Development Centre (GMDC) and an executive summer programme hospitality management course which started at the Hotel School in 1984. From the 1950s onwards a large number of students from less developed countries got fellowships to follow courses in the International Education Programme. To get an idea of the magnitude; the ITC – who had trained the largest number of participants from developing countries, within IE institutes – welcomed from 1951 to 1991 4.652 students of which 41% came from Asia, 29% from Africa, 19% from Europe, 10% from the Americas and 2% from Australia. Partly as a result of increasing internationalisation of education, from early 2000 the programmes were one by one incorporated in the existing Dutch higher education system. 

Education is considered as one of the most important mechanisms to transfer knowledge and a crucial factor for development. An analysis of the International Education Programme is therefore not only interesting in its own right. It also offers an excellent opportunity to contribute to debates on the role of knowledge transfer and circulation in economic, technical and social transformation in less developed countries. This research programme will investigate the importance of International Education in development from two different perspectives: IE as knowledge transfer mechanism and IE as a development policy instrument.


Researchers involved:

Dr. Saurabh Arora

Dr. Mila Davids

Prof.dr. Koen Frenken

The research program promotes synergy between the following research programs: Technology Flows, the Knowledge Economy and Economic Performance and Modern Societies in Transition.