Record number of international students in the Netherlands

Record number of international students in the Netherlands

With 112.000 foreign students from 164 different countries, the number of international students has hit a record this year. A positive development? Yes and no. Alumnus Jeroen Wienen, currently a member of the board of national student organization Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg (ISO), explains why.

The population of international students in the Netherlands is becoming bigger and more diverse, Nuffic reported today. In the academic year 2016-2017, a record number of foreign students were enrolled at Dutch colleges and universities. Although German students still make up the biggest group of internationals studying in the Netherlands, figures show a rapid growth in students from outside Europe. According to Tilburg University alumnus and ISO board member Jeroen Wienen, the rise in foreign students is “a primarily positive development”. But he also sees reasons for some caution: “English-taught study programs don’t always benefit domestic students.”

Brain gain

Wienen explains that the increase in international students studying in the Netherlands is good news for different reasons. The Dutch economy benefits from the ‘brain gain’ international students bring. Approximately 25% of international students remain in the Netherlands after graduation, Nuffic reported, boosting the economy with a yearly 1,5 billion euros. But perhaps more importantly, foreign students are believed to add to the quality of education. “It’s good to have international perspectives in the classroom,” Wienen says.

Who benefits?

But there are also reasons for concern. Since attracting international students is profitable for universities, an increasing number of courses and study programs are no longer offered in Dutch. “There is nothing wrong with switching to English, as long as it provides added value for all students”, Wienen says. “But English-taught study programs don’t always benefit domestic students. If you’re a psychology student, for example, it could be favorable to follow courses in Dutch – the language you’ll most likely use to communicate with your clients later in your career.”

Although Wienen is glad to see international students flocking to our universities in such large numbers, he is concerned that educational institutions will increasingly offer English-taught programs for financial gain: “Higher profits should not be the reason for switching to teaching in English.”

Jeroen Wienen of national student organization ISO

Jeroen Wienen of national student organization ISO

You can listen to a (Dutch) radio item on this subject here. Skip to 10:13 for Jeroen Wienen’s contribution.


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