There are 87,000 international students at Dutch colleges and universities – a number that increases every year – but many return home as soon as they complete their studies despite comparatively generous post-study work rights.
If just one in five students stayed it could yield and extra €740 million for the economy, said Bussemaker, citing a study from the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. “We get smart people to come to Holland and now we have to figure out a way to keep some of those bright people here… It will bring us knowledge and income,” she said.
The Netherlands currently allows students to stay for up to a year on one of two “work search” schemes—one for master’s and bachelors students just graduated from Dutch universities; the other for “highly skilled” master’s or PhD students who have graduated from Dutch or World top 200 universities (according to THE rankings) overseas in the last three years.
“61% said they would be more inclined to stay in the Netherlands if it was easier to get a work or residence visa”
Dr Rosa Becker, senior policy officer at the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education (NUFFIC), said few countries offered such a deal but that the schemes were not perfect.
“A work permit is required during the highly skilled work search year, if they want to undertake paid work. In practice this is not always easy to get. A minimum annual salary is also required: € 51,239 when you are aged 30 or over, and € 37,575 if aged under 30,” she told The PIE News.
A survey of Europe’s top five study destinations last year found other barriers. While 43% of overseas students in the Netherlands “felt they had a good chance of finding a job after their studies”, second highest after Germany, 61% said they would be more inclined to stay if it was easier to get a work or residence visa.
Language was also a concern with only 1.8% of respondents speaking Dutch well.
Executive Director of the European Association for International Education, Leonard Engel, said he welcomed further reform.
“Although the Netherlands is already doing a very good job in promoting its education…it has always been a bit limited in its work options,” he told The PIE News.
“Since the Netherlands has high fees for students from outside the EU and some countries don’t, such as Germany, [its] competition will be primarily on the fee level, however work opportunities might be able to compensate that partially.”
“Career is one of the prime reasons for students to go study abroad. For some segments in the audience it is critical”
Edwin Van Rest, CEO of StudyPortals.eu, said better work opportunities would improve the country’s already strong offer of widespread English-medium provision and quality universities.
Europe’s largest study destination, the UK, has just scrapped its two-year post study work route – thought to be deterring enrolments from markets such as India – while Germany, second largest, extended work rights in May.
“Career is one of the prime reasons for students to study abroad. For some segments in the audience it is critical,” said Van Rest.
Bussemaker, who became minister this month, has asked the country’s Social-Economic Council to work out what companies, educators and government can do to retain talent by 2013. It will also ask whether more foreign workers could displace Dutch employees which could yield difficult answers—as shown by a Monash University study this week, which claims recently extended work rights in Australia have reduced domestic employment.