Numerus fixus: should Dutch students be given priority?

Numerus fixus: should Dutch students be given priority?

The competition to get into numerus fixus study programs is getting tougher. As popular programs such as psychology and business are increasingly becoming English-taught, more and more international students are competing for a seat. This has sparked a debate on whether Dutch students should be given priority over internationals in numerus fixus selection procedures.

According to Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), domestic students should be getting first dibs on popular study programs at Dutch universities. The party has filed a motion to give Dutch students priority over foreign students in numerus fixus selection processes.

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In the Netherlands, admission to popular study programs with a limited number of available seats—‘numerus fixus’—is regulated by a lottery system. This way, all applicants get a fair chance of being selected. But as Dutch students increasingly have to compete with international students to get into the program of their choice, chances of being admitted are becoming considerably lower.

The PVV motion to give Dutch students priority comes a few weeks after the rector magnificus of the University of Amsterdam, Karen Maex, expressed concerns that the growing influx of international students may be crowding out domestic students. In a speech in celebration of the university’s 368th anniversary, Maex stated that maintaining accessibility for Dutch students in times of far-reaching internationalization “requires our full attention”.

Dutch students first?

Maex’ worries are not unfounded. At the University of Amsterdam, one of the most popular numerus fixus programs is the university’s Bachelor’s program in psychology. As the program will become fully English-taught starting next academic year, competition over a seat has increased dramatically. A total of 1300 international students have applied—on top of 600 Dutch applications—while the program has a maximum capacity of 600 students.

Is the PVV’s ‘Dutch students first’ approach the answer to the issues raised by Maex? According to the Dutch Minister of Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven, it is not. “That is in conflict with European law”, she said in response to the motion filed by PVV-politician Harm Beertema.

The House of Representatives, or Tweede Kamer, will vote on the motion on Tuesday.

Numerus fixus at Tilburg University

At Tilburg University, there is currently a single numerus fixus program: International Business Administration. The program is fully English-taught, and offers space for 500 students. Admission to the program is determined by a weighted lottery; out of all eligible applicants, a ranking list is made based on the candidates’ grades, motivation and CV. The higher your position on the ranking list, the higher your chances of being selected. You can read more about Tilburg University’s numerus fixus admission procedures here.


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