Three in ten international students stay in the Netherlands to work after graduating, data from the Central Bureau of Statistics shows.
Some 32% of international students who graduated in the 2018/2019 academic year were in employment in the Netherlands one year later, the data showed. Previously, only around 20% of international students done so.
Lucette Roovers, director of global engagement at Breda University of Applied Sciences, told The PIE the “stay rate” of international students has been a focal point of the ongoing international student debate in the Netherlands.
“Research has shown that, especially in the first years after graduation, they have a high added value for the Dutch economy,” she said.
“In 2019, the Central Planning Bureau calculated that a European student earns the Dutch treasury an average of almost €17,000 and a non-EEA student as much as over €96,000.”
Many benefits only come into play if an international student continues to live and work in the Netherlands, and subsequently pays taxes, Roovers highlighted.
“There is room for improvement and universities can play their part,” said Roovers, adding that BUas’s efforts already include both integrated and extracurricular Dutch language and culture modules offered to students and staff.
“A further boost, where customisation is paramount, for both Dutch and international students is something we stand for and would like to take the lead in this,” she added.
The country is desperately in need of young, highly motivated, and skilled people
“The country is desperately in need of young, highly motivated, and skilled people to enter the job market, remain in the Netherlands, have families and integrate, hence becoming successful,” said Peter Birdsall, president, Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences.
For Birdsall, higher education is the “simplest and easiest way” to implement this type of needed immigration.
“We do feel however, that it’s extremely important to have a clear profile of the type of students being recruited and what their opportunities are after their studies. The link with business and society, and the impact that international graduates could have in the Netherlands should be paramount when deciding which program to offer,” said Birdsall.
“As an example, simply offering a bachelors in business administration, without clear links to future jobs, or a program like psychology, without ascertaining whether these graduates could bring something beneficial to society has led to criticism.”
Almost 123,000 international students were enrolled in universities in the Netherlands or higher vocational education courses in the 2022/23 academic year, making up 15% of the total number of students – a figure which Birdsall said is “very much in line with a healthy international higher education policy”.
For him, internationalisation is “vital, as it’s part of the dynamic of the Dutch”.
MP and leader of the newly launched New Social Contract Party, Pieter Omtzigt – who favours stricter anti-international student measures – argued against Dutch taxpayers paying for the tuition fees of international students on the grounds that they normally return to their home countries after.
Birdsall expects the proposed law – aimed at reducing the number of English-taught courses on offer and managing international student numbers at public universities – will come into effect in the coming year, and that public universities of applied sciences and public research universities will be obliged to change most of the bachelor programs back to a majority ‘Dutch spoken’ format.
“There will most likely be a phasing out of the current English programs affected,” said Birdsall.
Wittenborg is one university set to be exempt from any changes in law, due to its status as an independent university of applied sciences.
The university’s student body of 1,500 students is 95% non-Dutch from around 100 different countries, with a yearly intake around 400 students.
Birdsall told The PIE the university remains following the situation closely and lobbying “where necessary”.
Universities and universities of applied sciences continue to share their feedback on the bill.
Simone Hackett, senior lecturer at The Hague University of Applied Sciences and a member of the EAIE General Council, told The PIE that “there seems to be a consensus from both the union of research universities and the union of universities of applied sciences as well as several other organisations and educational institutions, that the bill in its current state should not be passed”.
She said it is “not surprising” that universities of applied sciences object to the bill as according to Nuffic only 7.7% of the total student population such institutions are international and according to the Dutch Inspectorate of Education only 6% of bachelor programs are taught entirely in English, she added.
“If internationalisation and English-taught courses are to be cut back even further, it will affect students’ intercultural learning, we will have fewer international educators and scientists working at our universities and it will have damaging consequences on international cooperation and on the labour shortage,” said Hackett.
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