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Int’l students up in the Netherlands, with Italy overtaking China

A total of 85,955 international students from 170 countries were studying in the Netherlands last year, accounting for an increased share of the total university student body, figures released by Dutch internationalisation agency Nuffic show. Italy has overtaken China to become the second source market, in part due to Brexit anxieties.

The share of international students has increased over the past year. Photo: Pixabay

Although the majority of international students are from the EEA, the student population is also diversifying

While Germany remains by far the biggest sending country, Italy topped the risers for the third year in a row. With an absolute increase of 731 students from 2017, Italy overtook China as the second source country for Dutch universities. This does not indicate a drop in Asian students, however, as non-EEA student figures also saw an increase.

“We hope that…our research enables decision makers to make informed decisions on these topics”

The report recalled in its introduction the ongoing debate around internationalisation and accessibility of higher education in the Netherlands, with the hope that data will bring some clarity to policy makers.

“We see there is a public debate on the advantages and disadvantages of the inflow of international students,” Laurens Steehouder, researcher in team Knowledge & Innovation at Nuffic, told The PIE News.

“On the one hand international students contribute to an international classroom and the group that decides to stay and work in the Netherlands has a positive effect on the economy. On the other hand there are discussions on the accessibility of education [for] Dutch students and the limited availability of education resources.”

“We hope that by giving an overview of the number and trends of international students our research enables decision makers to make informed decisions on these topics,” he said

Counting only international students enrolled on a degree program either at research applied science institutions, the total number shows a 12% increase over 2017 figures. International students also now make up 12% of the total enrolments, a point higher than the previous year.

Steehouder commented that although Nuffic hasn’t investigated the exact reason of the Italian takeover, there may be several factors at play, including youth unemployment in Italy – and Brexit.

“The Netherlands is attractive because of the English taught programs and affordable for EU students because of the tuition fees – same as for Dutch students,” he said

“Italians also find the UK attractive as a study destination but there is now a lot of uncertainty due to Brexit.”

Although the majority of international students are from the EEA, the student population is also diversifying. Over a two-year period the share of non-EEA students increased 2% to 27% in 2018-2019.

“The Netherlands is affordable for EU students and attractive because of the English taught programs”

But growth is unevenly distributed between institution types, with research universities showing a 16% jump, compared to 5% in universities of applied science.

Although the largest share of international students is at master’s level, research universities have seen strong growth at bachelor’s level – and for the first time last year they enrolled more international undergraduates (30,500) than did universities of applied sciences (27,176).

The two study levels also have slightly different source markets – while India figures in 5th position for master’s students, it’s not in the top 10 for undergraduates. And the same goes for institution types, with universities of applied sciences and research universities showing different source markets among the top 10.

But business and economics programs at universities of applied sciences were the most international of all, with 13,535 international students.

In Amsterdam, the most popular city for international degree students, 1 in 10 students is international.

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