Spectacular rise in the number of foreign students

    In ten years’ time the number of foreigners completing a full study programme here has quadrupled. It is mainly German and Chinese students that have been coming to the Netherlands in droves.

    According to figures published by international higher education body Nuffic, between 2000 and 2011 the number of foreigners studying at Dutch universities or colleges has increased by nearly 450 percent. This number is rising faster than in other EU countries.

    The Netherlands has outpaced Belgium and Sweden
    In terms of numbers, the Netherlands has now outpaced Belgium and Sweden and comes close to the figures for France, for example. Of all the European countries the United Kingdom still attracts the most foreign students, and our next-door neighbour Germany also remains quite popular.


    ‘We enjoy an excellent reputation thanks to our modern education methods. Other than in many Asian countries, Dutch universities and colleges stimulate independence and self-reliance’

    According to Nuffic director Freddy Weima, the Netherlands partly owes its growing popularity to its well-established reputation in the field of higher education. Many Dutch universities consistently hold a high position in the international rankings, a phenomenon that is quite exceptional for such a small country. Weima: ‘In addition, of all non English-speaking countries, the Netherlands offers the most study programmes in English, while at the same time we enjoy an excellent reputation thanks to our modern education methods. Other than in many Asian countries, Dutch universities and colleges stimulate independence and self-reliance.’ Another reason young people are drawn to the Netherlands is its reputation as an open and tolerant country.

    ‘At this stage some nine percent of our students holds a foreign passport’, Weima tells us. In the past academic year (2012/2013) most of those students originally came from Germany, followed by Chinese and Belgian students.

    Rapid growth
    The rapid growth in the number of foreign students in the Netherlands did not take place overnight. Since 2001 Nuffic has had a number of Neso offices abroad to promote Dutch higher education and assist young people who want to come over here.

    In 2012, former State Secretary Zijlstra (VVD) regarded the growing number of German students in the Netherlands as a major problem, especially as the number of Dutch students studying abroad was lagging behind. He retracted his criticism once the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis calculated that foreign students bring in money: if nineteen percent of them stay here for a few years, the Treasury stands to gain 740 million euro.

    Ever since, the Dutch Government has dedicated itself to attracting foreign students and is doing its utmost to retain as many graduates as possible.

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