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Netherlands: 24% non-EU students “uncertain”

Despite the coronavirus crisis, interest in studying in the Netherlands remains high among non-EU international students, a Nuffic survey has found. However, a quarter (24%) doubt whether they’ll actually be able to do so this coming academic year.

Prospective students indicated uncertainties , ranging from travel restrictions and visa procedures to finances and scholarship possibilities. Photo: Jack Winbow/ Pexels

Only one in 10 (9%) respondents said they would prefer online studies

The Nuffic survey of 941 students was conducted between April and May, with most student respondents planning to pursue a master’s degree (69%). The other 31% intended to pursue a bachelor’s degrees, a PhD and a summer course or a short course.

“These questions show a great need for clear and transparent information”

The majority of respondents indicated that they had already applied to their selected Dutch higher education institution, with 80% still interested in studying in the Netherlands.

When asked whether they felt Covid-19 constituted a deterrent, 40% said they were not deterred from studying in the Netherlands.

However, 24% said they think they will have to give up on studying in the country and almost 36% are not sure yet.

Prospective students indicated a great number of uncertainties about their ability to study abroad in the Netherlands, ranging from travel restrictions (51%) and scholarship possibilities (50%) to visa procedures (40%) and finances (41%).

Issues around access to the Dutch healthcare system and personal health conditions were mentioned the least (27% and 23% respectively).


A quarter (26%) also indicated that they might decide to pursue their studies in a country other than the Netherlands, with Germany, Belgium and Sweden as leading preferences.

The most popular non-EU countries mentioned were Australia, Canada and the US.

“The presence of doubt and uncertainty is underlined by the fact that approximately 20% of respondents wrote additional questions in the open response field, for 187 questions in total,” noted Nuffic.

“These questions show a great need for clear and transparent information, regarding postponement of admission conditions, visa deadlines and the start of the academic year, whether tuition fees will be lowered, if education is offered online and whether scholarship opportunities or student housing will be impacted by this crisis.”

Moreover, differences were seen between prospective students living in the 10 countries surveyed.

“Students in Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil are facing a postponement in the possibility to apply for governmental scholarship programs, whereas Chinese and South Korean prospect students chiefly worry about access to Dutch healthcare facilities,” explained the authors.

Exchange rates also played a part in the responses given by students in certain locations.

“The exchange rate of the national currency of Mexico has dropped significantly versus the Euro (about 25%) sharply increasing the cost of studying in the Netherlands,” Nuffic continued.

The organisation said that prospective students in Brazil, Turkey, Russia which were already affected by a combination of sanctions and very low oil prices and Indonesia are dealing with the same problem: “Scholarships granted in local currencies may also no longer be sufficient to cover the full tuition fee or living costs.”

“Chinese and South Korean prospect students chiefly worry about access to Dutch healthcare facilities”

Russian, Indian and South African prospective students were shown to be substantially more worried about travel restrictions.

Notably, China is the only country where the greatest cause of insecurity is the mode of instruction: either online or on-campus classes.

When asked about their preference, 38% of the respondents stated they would like to start their studies as planned at a Dutch institute with on-campus classes.  Only a small minority (4%) would rather attend an institution in their home country.

However, a rather large group (about 44%) would prefer to change their initial plan, either deferring their stay for a year (21%), starting in the first subsequent period (14%).

Only one in 10 (9%) said they would prefer online studies.

“This may imply that preference is given to physical participation in an international classroom and everything else that comes with the experience of studying abroad,” noted Nuffic.

The Dutch government has recently taken the first tentative steps in relaxing Covid-19 containment measures. However, face-to-face on-campus education is not yet possible.

International students currently make up 12.3% of the Dutch student body, and some 25,850 are from non-EU countries.

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