Too many foreign students study at Dutch universities

Tar Gábor | 2022-10-03
Dutch universities are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the significant increase in the number of foreign students in recent years. The University of Amsterdam, attended by more than 12 000 foreign students, would deal with the situation by introducing a student number cap on English-language courses, but current rules do not allow this.

From the next academic year, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) would put student number cap on English-language courses in two popular subjects (political science and psychology). The planned measure is justified by the significant increase in the number of foreign students, which, the institution says, places a heavy burden on its staff. In addition, it is becoming increasingly difficult for foreign students to find a place in a hall of residence or a rented apartment. The university fears that this situation could lead to local students being squeezed out.

Other Dutch universities facing similar problems: universities in Maastricht, Delft and Twente have also indicated that they would limit the number of foreign students in some way.

The entrance of the business school of UVA (Photo: 123rf)

Current rules do not allow universities to select students on the basis of nationality. Therefore, the UvA intends to limit the number of foreign students by introducing a student number cap on English language courses. In principle, the legislation allows universities to set a cap for the number of students on each course, but it is not allowed to have a different limit for Dutch- and English-language tracks.

115 thousand foreign students in Dutch higher education

In the academic year 2021/22, 115,000 foreigners studied in the total Dutch higher education system, which has 817,000 students and includes, in addition to classical universities, institutions providing higher vocational education (called universities of applied sciences in the Dutch system).

In the last academic year, a quarter of first-year students in all higher education came from abroad. Last year’s number of foreign students (115,000) were 3.5 times as many as in 2005/06, when 33,000 foreigners studied in Dutch higher education.

Brexit has made the Netherlands even more attractive

Dutch universities are attractive to foreign students because they are typically at the top of the global rankings for higher education, and offer a wide range of English-language programmes. In this year’s Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranking of the world’s top universities, 13 Dutch universities were among the top 400 institutions, with the University of Amsterdam (58th) achieving the highest score.

The popularity of Dutch universities has increased as a result of Brexit: many EU students who had originally planned to study in the UK have ended up choosing Dutch universities because of the increased UK tuition fees for EU students.