The recently published 2003-2005 Exit Research survey among foreign MSc students who graduated in 2005 has helped the TU focus on the foreign student-related issues that still need to be improved.
Many of the MSc students who studied at TU Delft from 2003 to 2005 complained about the visa procedures. Many of these students also said information they received about housing, summer courses and available scholarships was insufficient.
Fortunately, these matters have been improved significantly in recent years, according to Anita van Velsen, head of the TU's International Office: "The relationship with the Immigration and Naturalization Office (IND) especially has improved massively since then." Most visa procedures now run smoothly and students don't experience the frustratingly long delays they did two years ago.
As for housing information, this is improving as well. "Before students leave their home countries, we now send them two emails that contain lots of information about international student housing," Van Velzen reports. "Because Duwo now works with one-year contracts, it's very important that students know exactly what to expect when they arrive here."
The amount of available housing has also increased: there is now enough housing for all foreign MSc students. Further, more comprehensive information about the TU's summer school course is now available. Van Velzen: "We've put more information on the website, including students' personal experiences." Prospective students are no longer surprised by the amount of hard work the summer school course actually entails.
Since 2003, logistical improvements have also been made, such as the post-arrival information market. "At this market, students can arrange all sorts of practical things," Van Velzen says. "For instance, they can open bank accounts, apply for residence permits and arrange insurance."
Another improvement concerns tuberculosis tests. "Instead of sending each student to the health care service (GGD) individually, a mobile GGD unit now comes to the campus twice a year," Van Velzen says. "All new students are invited to have themselves tested then and there, which is much more efficient."
Information about student health care has improved generally, and a team of professionals now offers psychological support to foreign students. Van Velzen: "Dutch students usually can turn to social networks of family and friends for help, but foreign students are here on their own. We therefore keep close watch over them. If we feel someone is having problems, we immediately step in and try to help."
There are of course some issues that still need to be improved, like providing clear information about scholarships. "It's difficult to improve this, though, as there are so many organizations involved and so many different scholarships available," Van Velzen says.
The Exit Research survey also showed that about half of the international MSc students did not know that student counselors were available on the faculty and university levels, and many students were also unaware of the International Office's daily open hours during the first few months of term. "There's still some room for improvement here," Van Velzen admits. But during the open hours, students can now simply walk in with any question about health care, insurance, housing, etc."
The survey also showed that most 2003-2005 students were unfamiliar with the various TU Delft student societies. They also didn't know the difference between student societies and student associations. Moreover, very few international students participated in courses offered by the TU's Cultural Centre. Van Velsen however is happy to report that the Cultural Centre now offers some courses specifically for international students.