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NL: sector anticipates legislation to limit int’l recruitment

Stakeholders in the Netherlands are awaiting elaboration from the government on legislation plans to limit the number of international students Dutch universities can take on.

A further announcement from the minister of education, culture and science is expected in March. Photo: iStock

Dijkgraaf has discussed the possibility of restricting capacity for English taught programs

During a parliamentary debate on January 31, minister of education, culture and science Robbert Dijkgraaf said he will propose a new plan in March to lower the number of international students enrolling at Dutch universities.

“As far as I’m concerned, we are now at our maximum,” Dijkgraaf said during the debate, the NL Times reported.

Dijkgraaf has discussed the possibility of restricting capacity for programs taught in English, while leaving Dutch language variants of these courses open.

There has also been discussion around institutions being obliged to provide housing to any international students they enroll, a sentiment which was shared by Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, in an open letter to Dijkgraaf.

At the end of last year, Dijkgraaf urged higher education institutions to stop actively recruiting international students due to unprecedented pressures on accommodation shortages, teaching staff and facilities.

Floor van Donselaar, team leader, at the the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education, Nuffic, spoke to The PIE about the issue.

“At Nuffic, we believe that internationalisation improves the quality of education, that it contributes to the personal development of pupils and students and that it prepares them for a labour market and society, which is increasingly becoming international,” said van Donselaar.

“At the same time, we see that the increasing popularity of our research universities puts pressure on the education system and its surroundings, like finding proper housing which affects different groups of people, also Dutch and international students.”

Breda University of Applied Sciences issued an “appeal to Dutch politicians” in a video shared across social media platforms. The video features the university’s international students and key industry players from the Dutch business community, who highlight why international students are “indispensable in business and society”.

Guus Goorts, founder of a higher education marketing agency, highlighted that any legal measures will likely only come into effect for later academic years, and will not lower the 2023/24 intake.

“By now, the Netherlands is well known for quality education at an affordable price. Prospective students tend to take one to two years to decide on their study abroad destination, so the next year’s intake is already well in the pipeline,” wrote Goorts in a blogpost.

“I personally hope that the Dutch education sector will become a lot more strategic and coordinated in its internationalisation efforts,” continued Goorts.

“There is also a serious opportunity to be more strategic – given its demographics, the Netherlands needs the inflow of foreign talent. But it will pay to focus on attracting students with specific skills to specific areas, rather than just talking about more or fewer students.”

Similarly, van Donselaar further highlighted the importance of customisation of measurements, considering the situation and consequences vary for different types of institutions and different geographical areas.

“The situation in the Randstad – the region around large cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam – differs from areas closer to our borders and for example Zeeland as well,” said van Donselaar.

“There we see more and more people moving away, and international students play an important role in absorbing shortages on the labour market.

“It is a complex debate,” added van Donselaar.

“Somehow politicians want fewer international students but more students who stay for work”

Stephen Orme, senior vice president of partnerships, EMEA, Studyportals, told The PIE News a complete halt to international student recruitment would be “unnecessary and destructive”.

“The Netherlands has a rapidly ageing population. Without international students at some point our student houses will be empty while our retirement homes are full. Who is going to drive the economy then?” Orme continued.

“The economy will collapse if we don’t cover the deficit of young people entering the job market, and not only in very specific sectors as seems to be the common perception.”

According to Nuffic’s latest research on the stay rate from May 2022, international students from outside the European Economic Area are relatively more likely to stay in the Netherlands than former students from the EEA, but only make up a small part of the student population.

For non-EEA students, the stay rate after five years is 38%. Among students from the EEA, 19% stay in the Netherlands after that same time.

“Somehow politicians want fewer international students but more students who stay for work,” said Orme. “If we want more international graduates on the job market we need to recruit more international students, especially non-EU.”

Instead, Orme would like to see the Dutch government invest in capacity to educate the young people which he believes Dutch society needs.

“This is not the time to be complacent and give in to populism,” added Orme.

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One Response to NL: sector anticipates legislation to limit int’l recruitment

  1. I highly support the approach to obligate universities to offer housing to international students. This is a standard at many private insitutions such as Haarlem Campus and many others.
    Also it could to include the entire sector into the discussion, to think about pricing and involce accommodation agencies to find solutions.
    International students contribute massively to the Dutch economy

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