UCU party 2018. Photo: DUB

Forty percent of first-year students in the Netherlands come from abroad

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Dutch higher education institutions are becoming increasingly popular with international students. At research universities, as many as 40 percent of first-year students enrolled this academic year come from abroad.

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In the past 16 years, the number of international students enrolled in Dutch higher education institutions has risen more sharply than the number of Dutch students, according to the latest figures from Statistics Netherlands. Not even the coronavirus crisis stopped the rising trend, probably because of the tuition charged from those following courses online.

More than 42,000 of the 115,000 internationals are studying in the Netherlands for the first time. That represents one in four first-year higher education students. At research universities such as UU, 40 percent of new students come from abroad. 

In the current academic year, Utrecht University has seen a growth of 18 percent in the total number of students, according to external sources. The percentage of international students is 13 percent, which means it has grown in Utrecht as well.

This academic year, 80,400 international students are studying at Dutch universities and 34,800 at universities of applied sciences. Dutch universities are particularly popular among European students: in 2005/2006, 63 percent of internationals students came from other European countries as opposed to 76 percent in the current academic year.

The number of students from Germany has remained stable in recent years, while the number of students from other European countries has risen.

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Image: courtesy of HOP. Source: Statistics Netherlands.

Popular studies
At the universities of applied sciences, most of the foreign students came to study law, accounting, commerce, and business. Design, art and languages were popular too, as in the preceding academic year. At research universities, the study programmes that were most in demand among internationals were journalism, behavioural sciences and social sciences.

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Dutch universities have been pleading with the government for the possibility to establish a mechanism to control the influx of international students. They argue that, by controlling the number of students, the institutions would be safeguarding the quality of education. They would like to introduce a quota for international students without closing the door on Dutch students.

The Dutch Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, is in favour of that too, but he warned that it will take a while. The “new policy instruments” will not be available before the 2023/2024 academic year.

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