International student population increasingly diverse

The international student population in the Netherlands is becoming increasingly diverse and now includes 162 nationalities.

Study programmes in which foreign students enrol at Dutch research universities and universities of applied sciences are highly varied as well. These findings derive from an analysis by Nuffic based on student mobility figures from the 2017-2018 academic year.

Incoming Student Mobility in Dutch Higher Education‌ (3.1 MB)

The number of international students is growing along with the student population at Dutch research universities and universities of applied sciences. On average, international students make up 12.2% of the entire student population. Nuffic figures show that there are 122,000 international students in the Netherlands this academic year: nearly 90,000 are enrolled in a full degree programme, while the rest have come for a shorter stay such as a study exchange through the Erasmus+ mobility programme.

Art, technology and University Colleges

Art programmes at universities of applied sciences, University Colleges and master’s programmes in business and technology attract relatively high numbers of students from abroad. International students make up the majority in fewer than 10% of all higher education study programmes. In 2017, international students were enrolled in less than a fifth of all programmes with a numerus fixus.

Internationalisation and quality strategy

"Internationalising education and attracting international students is a way to improve the quality of education. The knowledge, experience and networks that international students bring from their own countries enable us to strengthen the quality of education in the Netherlands and allow all students to benefit from a diverse international classroom", says Freddy Weima, Director-General of Nuffic.

According to him, the current discussion about the ideal number of international students should be conducted in a nuanced way. "The mix of international and Dutch students varies at each research university and university of applied sciences, depending on the purpose and content of the programme. In the green sector, which was originally oriented towards exporting, the ideal composition may differ from that in the border region where there is more cooperation with neighbouring countries Germany and Belgium. Research universities and universities of applied sciences are more and more conscious in recruiting on quality, match with the programme and diversity within education."

Countries of origin: mainly from Europe

Approximately one in four international students come from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). With 22,125 students, Germany remains the main supplier of foreign students to the Netherlands. German students represent nearly 25% of the

total international student population in our country. This figure is down from 40% in the 2011-2012 academic year. China is in second place with 4,475 students. The numbers of German and Chinese students are declining slightly, however, while the number of students with a different nationality is rising. As a result, the international student population is becoming increasingly varied year after year.

The interest in pursuing study programmes in the Netherlands increased the most among students from Italy (#3 with 4,077 students), Romania (#9 – 2,348), India (#11 – 2,021), Spain (#8 – 2,445), France (#10 – 2,341) and the United Kingdom (#5 – 3,109).

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