Dutch education more popular than ever

Publication date: Mar 30, 2017 06:30 AM

In the 2016-17 academic year there were more than 112,000 international students in the Netherlands. That is the highest number ever recorded, Nuffic concludes in the analysis of the latest figures on student mobility. More than 81,000 international students are enrolled in a full degree programme, the remainder is here for shorter stays such as an Erasmus+ exchange.

Student population increasingly diverse

As many as 164 different countries are represented in the total number of higher education students in the Netherlands. This shows that the student population is becoming increasingly diverse. The 22,000 students from Germany are the largest group of international students, followed by students from China (4,300) and Italy (3,300).

Proportionally, more and more international students come from outside Europe. In recent years there has been an increase in new enrolments from countries such as India, Indonesia and South Korea. The group that shows the largest increase over the last 10 years are the international students from the 11 countries where Nuffic has a Netherlands Education Support Office; a growth of more than 150% since 2006-07. The main task of these local offices is to promote Dutch higher education.

Art, technology and university colleges

The proportion of international students at universities of applied sciences is the largest in art and design programmes (31.8%). This is not surprising, because the Dutch art sector is famous worldwide for its Dutch Design. The university colleges at research universities are the most international with 38.7% of the student population coming from abroad.

The increase in international students does not seem to impact the admission chances of Dutch students. A recent discussion in the Netherlands focused on the influx of students in bachelor’s programmes in engineering. However, the figures show that students from outside the European Union are often enrolled in master’s programmes. In fact, the percentage of international students in the bachelor phase is quite low, with less than 10% international students. "We welcome the large influx of students in technical master’s studies, because there is a shortage of skilled technical personnel in the Netherlands" says Beatrice Boots, Director of the National Platform Science & Technology. 

€ 1.57 billion for the treasury

Many international students also continue to live and work in the Netherlands after their studies and as such, they contribute to innovation and the Dutch knowledge economy. International PhD students often start their careers in the Dutch private sector. In 2012 the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) calculated that international students contribute about € 450 million to the state treasury annually. With new data on the stay rate of international students from Statistics Netherlands (CBS), Nuffic estimates that approximately 25% of international students remain in the Netherlands their whole lives. The annual brain gain to the Dutch knowledge economy is calculated to be approximately € 1.57 billion annually.

International talent is good for the Netherlands

Attracting talent from abroad is of great importance for an internationally oriented country like the Netherlands. "Of course, it is great that international students contribute to the state treasury, but there is another important reason”, says Freddy Weima, director of Nuffic: "International students contribute to an international classroom at Dutch higher education institutions, which benefits all students. With the knowledge, experience and networks that they bring from their own country, they enhance the quality of education in the Netherlands."

Position of the Netherlands

In terms of growth of international student influx, the Netherlands scores better than the world average. The Dutch market share of all mobile students worldwide increased around 15% since 2006-07, to almost 2 out of every 100 students. Among the reasons that students choose to study in the Netherlands, students often mention the quality of Dutch education, the large number of English-taught study programmes and the relatively low tuition fees. 

Nuffic monitors trends in global mobility flows of students in vocational and higher education, and researches the impact on education, employability and the economy.

More information

Update: Incoming student mobility in Dutch higher education 2016-17(933 kB)

View our mobility statistics

last modified Nov 28, 2017 09:45 AM