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More international graduates in the Netherlands staying after five years

Numbers of international students choosing to stay after graduation in the Netherlands is rising, according to Nuffic, the country’s internationalisation body.

International students do not always remain in areas where they studied, with many moving to the Randstad and Eindhoven regions. Photo: Unsplash/ Javier M.

If the country managed to retain all of the graduates surveyed who are still living here after five years, this annual total would reach €2.08 billion

Surveying the 85,880 international students who graduated between the 2007 and 2013 cohorts, researchers found that around 22,000 graduates remained in the country, five years after graduation.

“There are significant positive effects of having international graduates in the Dutch labour market,” Nuffic research consultant Mark Vlek de Coningh argued. 

“We must create the right conditions and make joint efforts actually to retain this talent here”

For the 2006 graduate pool of 8,915 international students, 2,610 were still in the Netherlands five years after completion, compared with 3,515 graduates remaining from 15,940 international students graduating in 2012, the Stay rates of international graduates report found.

More than half the international student graduates leave the Netherlands within a year of graduating, and after five years around 25% remained, the report suggested.

In 2016, Nuffic reported that 38% of 2008 student cohort remained in the country five years after graduation, with one factor in particular playing a key role, Vlek de Coningh noted.

“A factor that is most definitely playing a role is the economic crisis which hit in 2008 and took multiple years to fully recover from,” he said.

“All cohorts in the study were impacted by the crisis which without a doubt has made it harder for them to stay, as being able to work is known to have a significant impact on the likelihood to stay.”

Although the total number staying per year increased over the study, the percentage dropped from 29.3% of 2006’s total, to 22.7% of the graduates in 2012-13.

The statistics however indicate that higher education is a key supply source for knowledge workers in the Dutch labour market, according to Nuffic. At least 72% of international alumni secured gainful employment within five years of graduating – comparable to the gross employment rate of the Dutch population in 2016.

International grads from technical programs choose to remain in the Netherlands most often, according to the report, along with education, health care and natural sciences graduates.

“[International students] contribute to both our economy and our state finances through taxes and expenditures, and they tend to study programs that are likely to lead to work in areas in which we have shortages of qualified workforce,” Vlek de Coningh added.

If the country managed to retain all of the graduates surveyed who are still living here after five years, this annual total would reach €2.08 billion, according to the internationalisation body.

“They contribute to the quality of our education and are an economic asset”

The report also found that graduates do not always continue living in the region where they studied, with graduates drawn to the Randstad and Eindhoven regions for a number of reasons, according to Vlek de Coningh.

“There’s the Amsterdam effect, which alone counts for 25% of the graduates. Then there’s also most work in these areas and Eindhoven in particular has a local scheme for talent attraction and retention (Brainport), which is paying dividend,” he explained.

“One of the recommendations in our publication is to make more use of these kind of schemes to attract and retain talent throughout the Netherlands.”

Nuffic’s policy officer Floor Van Donselaar previously told The PIE that the country’s ‘orientation year‘ during which students and researchers can look for a job and then seek sponsorship is a “unique selling point”.

Nuffic previously estimated that 25% of graduates would stay lifelong, according to Vlek de Coningh, but this report differs in the way it shies away from lifelong predictions and rather sticks to looking at five-year stayrates.

“International students are important for our country”, said Freddy Weima, Director-General of Nuffic.

“They contribute to the quality of our education through the international classrooms, while they are also an economic asset to our knowledge economy and treasury. For this reason, we must create the right conditions and make joint efforts actually to retain this talent here.”

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