December 3, 2023

During a parliamentary debate on January 31, Minister of Education, Culture and Science Robert Dijkraaf said he would propose a new plan in March to reduce the number of foreign students enrolling in Dutch universities.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re at our peak now,” Dijkraaf said during the debate, the NL Times reported.

Dijkraaf discussed the possibility of capping capacity for English-taught programs while leaving Dutch-language versions of those courses open.

There was also discussion about institutions being obliged to provide accommodation to all international students they enroll, a view shared by the Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences in an open letter to Dijkraaf.

At the end of last year, Dijkraaf urged universities to stop actively recruiting international students due to unprecedented pressures on housing, teaching and facilities shortages.

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

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

“At the same time, we see that the growing popularity of our research universities puts pressure on the education system and its surroundings, such as finding suitable housing, which affects different groups of people, including Dutch and foreign 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 to business and society”.

Guus Goorts, founder of a higher education marketing agency, stressed that any legal measures would likely only come into effect in later academic years and would not reduce income in 2023/24.

“The Netherlands is now well known for quality education at an affordable price. Prospective students usually take one to two years to decide on their study abroad destination, so the next year’s intake is already well prepared,” Goorts wrote on his blog.

“I personally hope that the Dutch education sector will be much more strategic and coordinated in its internationalization efforts,” continued Goorts.

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

Similarly, van Donselaar further emphasized the importance of cmeasurement adaptations vary for different types of institutions and different geographies, given the situation and implications.

“The situation in the Randstad – the region around big cities like Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam – is different from areas closer to our borders and also Zeeland, for example,” said van Donselaar.

“There we see more and more people moving away and international students play an important role in absorbing the shortage in the labor market.

“It’s a complicated debate,” added van Donselaar.

“Somehow the politicians want fewer foreign students, but more students who stay for work”

Stephen Orme, Senior Vice President Partnerships, EMEA, Studyportals, said PIE News a complete halt to international student recruitment would be “unnecessary and destructive”.

“The Netherlands has a rapidly aging population. Without international students, at some point our student houses will be empty while our retirement homes will be full. Who will run the economy then?” Orme continued.

“The economy will collapse if we don’t cover the deficit of young people entering the labor market, and not just in very specific sectors as seems to be widely perceived.”

International students from outside the European Economic Area are relatively more likely to stay in the Netherlands than ex-EEA students, according to Nuffic’s latest research on stay rates from May 2022.

For students from non-EEA countries, the five-year stay rate is 38%. Among students from the EEA, 19% remain in the Netherlands after the same period.

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

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

“This is no time to be complacent and give in to populism,” added Orme.

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