Dutch universities witness alarming growth of foreign students despite calling for an enrollment cap

The number of international students in the Netherlands is on the rise. Despite university leaders urging the Dutch government to put an enrollment cap on the number of international students in February, the country currently has more than 115,000 foreign students.

According to the data released by Statistics Netherlands, an increase of 12% in the international student numbers has been witnessed since last year. It is alarming that despite the pandemic and travel restrictions, the Netherlands continues to attract more international students. 

The increase in popularity of studying in the Netherlands is owing to many factors, some of which are:

  • High quality of education
  • Affordable degree costs
  • Universities continue to add English-taught programs
  • Universities are expected to enroll all students that apply and meet eligibility criteria

Reports show that a quarter of first-year students at Dutch universities come from abroad. 72 percent of the students in Dutch higher education are from the EEA (European Economic Area) excluding the UK. Experts suggest that Brexit and UK universities charging EU students regular fees is a major cause behind the growth of EEA foreign students in the Netherlands.

Almost 40% of the first-year students attending Dutch universities are international students. The Dutch higher education system is primarily divided into two categories:

  • University of Applied Sciences (HBO)
  • Academic Universities (WO)

HBO programs are professional degrees with a clear occupational outlook whereas WO programs are 3-year academic degrees with an unclear occupational outlook.

According to the data released by Statistics Netherlands for 2021/2022, the total international student population comprised 80.4 thousand university (WO) students and 34.8 thousand HBO students.

However, university leaders in the Netherlands have been calling for an enrollment cap for international students since February 2022. According to Ruben Puylaert,  spokesperson for Universities of the Netherlands, “for some degree programs, the number of international students is growing too fast to keep the quality of education high and the workload manageable.”

The quality of education might be hampered because of the rising number of international students and stagnant funding from the Dutch government. However, the government is yet to respond to these demands, while international students numbers continue to grow.