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Record international student numbers at Dutch universities

Record numbers of international students enrolled at Dutch universities in the 2021/22 academic year, according to new figures released today. 

New figures show a 12% increase in the number of international students, but universities want to cap incoming students. Photo: unsplash

International students currently make up one in four first-years at Dutch universities

There are currently 115,068 international students in the Netherlands, a 12% increase on last year, reports Nuffic, the Dutch government body for internationalisation in education. 

This follows the news that international students currently make up one in four first-years at Dutch universities, according to separate figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) released on March 28. 

The number coming from Europe has “surged”, CBS said, with Nuffic finding that 72% of international students are from countries in the European Economic Area, which does not include the UK.

German students continue to make up the greatest proportion of the Netherlands’ international students, representing a fifth of the population, but CBS reported that the share of German students has decreased, while the proportion from all other European countries has increased. 

Meanwhile the number of students from the UK has decreased “by almost a quarter” in what Nuffic deems the “likely impact” of Brexit as potential students from the UK now face paying higher non-EU fees to study in the Netherlands. 

Nuffic also suggests that Brexit has affected some of the demographic changes in incoming students, with some European students saying they are more likely to choose to study in the Netherlands than the UK as a result.

“The number of international students is growing too fast to keep the quality of education high”

But universities in the Netherlands have previously urged the government to cap the number of international students it allows in.  

“We see that for some degree programs, the number of international students is growing too fast to keep the quality of education high and the workload manageable,” said Ruben Puylaert, spokesperson for Universities of the Netherlands, which represents 14 Dutch universities. 

“This results in the quality of education being put under pressure for all students, both international and Dutch.” 

Universities have asked the government to consider allowing them to set enrolment quotas for English-language tracks within degree programs, as well as requesting the ability to set a maximum number of non-EEA students per degree program. 

They have also asked the government to consider allowing them to create an emergency quota to be used if “the number of applications is increasing so rapidly that the degree program is getting into difficulty”. 

In its report, Nuffic, which works on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Commission, acknowledges these concerns, stating that “the [Dutch] cabinet is aware of the increased number of incoming degree students and in their coalition agreement they pay specific attention to offering policy guidance to manage the flow of international students”. 

“Housing is a huge issue here and there are a lot of bills”

“Housing is a huge issue here and there are a lot of bills,” said Jira Osarollor, a student from Nigeria enrolled in a creative business course in the Netherlands. 

He said the UK was his first choice for study, but he couldn’t find any universities there offering this particular course. 

“However the student life is quite good,” Osarollor said of the Netherlands, “as internationals get accommodated in student housing and we get to interact a lot with each other.”

Last year, The PIE News reported that student accommodation shortages in the Netherlands are expected to double by the 2024-25 academic year, with some 22,000 students impacted by housing shortages in 2020. 

“We also have to keep an eye on the challenges posed by the growing number of students and discuss this with each other,” said Titia Bredée, director general of Nuffic. 

“At the same time, let us not lose sight of how valuable it is that students can receive education in such a diverse environment in which they can further develop their international skills. They desperately need it in the increasingly international labour market. 

“In addition, international students can play an important role in our tight labour market after graduation.”

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