international student enrollments
Are international students welcomed in the Netherlands? Source: Shutterstock

The Netherlands is looking into limiting its intake of international students.

The country has experienced an influx of international students over the past few years, due to its reputation for quality courses, a high standard of living and more universities offering courses in English.

According to data from Nuffic – the country’s organisation for international cooperation in higher education – in 2018/19, the share of international students in Dutch public higher education institutions increased to 11.5 percent of all students, compared to 10.5 percent in the previous year. 

Over a two-year period, the share of non-EEA students among international students increased from 24.8 percent in 2016/17 to 26.9 percent in 2018/19. 

But the country appears to be unable to cope with the effects of an avalanche of students coming in, with student housing in short supply, while the growing number of English programmes may mean local students are jostling with international students for a place. 

VVD parliamentarian Dennis Wiersma was quoted saying by, via the Parool, that universities and HBO colleges in the Netherlands should be able to limit the number of international students they attract from outside the EU. 

Wiersma said the country’s attractiveness as a study destination has advantages and disadvantages, adding that “The quality is going down. Lecture theatres are full, some courses have to limit student numbers and Dutch students are being squeezed out”. 

International student enrollments

International student enrollments have been increasing in the Netherlands. Source: Shutterstock

The Netherlands has two types of Bachelor’s degrees: HBO (degree programmes with a professional orientation) and WO (degree programmes with an academic orientation), both of which are equal in value.

Wiersma’s comments echo the country’s education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven; in a separate report, she said international students may pay higher fees if new proposals on dealing with the internationalisation of the Dutch higher education system come into force, reported

Engelshoven said the growth in English courses may have a negative impact on Dutch students’ language skills, while ministry research shows that the growth in international student numbers is putting pressure on the financing, quality and accessibility of education.

Wiersma said the focus should be on ensuring foreign students study subjects which would be useful to the Netherlands if they decide to stay. Priority should go to students taking technical subjects.

Too many students are studying psychology and Wiersma said “we don’t need them”.

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