Nearly a quarter of them (24.7%) have continued living here for five years after graduating, which amounts to nearly 22,000 international talents. Of the ones who graduated in 2006, a total of 2,610 settled in the Netherlands. This figure grew to 3,515 among 2012 graduates, indicating that higher education is a key supply source for knowledge workers in the Dutch labour market.
These findings emerge from a Nuffic study on the so-called stayrate of international students. Though this stayrate has been studied twice before, the latest survey is the first to include data on international students who study in the Netherlands but live outside the country's borders. This new analysis also includes larger groups of graduates for each year, bringing the study's total sample size to 85,880 international students.
Five years after graduation
To obtain a complete picture of the stayrate among a large group of international graduates, the study focused on a longer time frame. It examined students who graduated between the 2006-2007 and 2012-2013 academic years. The results reveal that just over half of all international students surveyed will leave within a year of graduating. However, with each year that a graduate decides to stay, the chance of eventually leaving actually decreases. The analysis shows that nearly a quarter stayed for at least five years. Over 72% of these international alumni have secured gainful employment, which is comparable to the gross employment rate of the Dutch population in 2016.
Students who complete study programmes in disciplines linked to current or expected shortages in the labour market are fairly likely to stay. Many international talents from technical programmes in particular choose to remain in the Netherlands (41% from universities and 26% from universities of applied sciences, for a total of 3,135 graduates). Graduates with a background in education, health care and natural sciences also tend to stay quite often.
Randstad and Eindhoven regions
On average, university graduates remain in the Netherlands more often than higher professional education (HBO) graduates. This fact is especially true for alumni of technical universities. However, these graduates do not always continue living in the region where they studied; the majority of international graduates end up in the Randstad (mainly Amsterdam, with around a quarter of the total) or in Eindhoven.
Key to knowledge economy and treasury
The retention of international talents is a major source of revenue for the Dutch government. Research shows that at least 19% of all graduates remain in the Netherlands their entire lives, generating € 1.64 billion for the treasury each year. 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. While the number of international graduates is increasing year after year, the percentage of those who stay is on a downward trend: 29.3% of those who finished their studies in 2006 stayed, whereas this figure fell to 22.27% for the class of 2012.
"International students are important for our country", says 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."
See more about the stayrates on our interactive dashboard: