More international students are staying in the Netherlands after graduating than previously assumed. In so doing, they bring in over €1.5 billion, according to EP-Nuffic, an organisation that promotes internationalisation in education.

A quarter of all international students spend the rest of their lives in the Netherlands after graduating, EP-Nuffic estimates on the basis of newly released figures. This figure is higher than the 19 percent of students who were previously assumed to stay in the Netherlands post-graduation.

Highly educated foreign nationals tend to find good jobs in the Netherlands, meaning they pay a lot of tax and high premiums. As a result, the government’s coffers are being filled.

And that is not all, EP-Nuffic says. International students leaving the Netherlands after getting their degree probably make a favourable contribution to the Netherlands’ reputation and trade relations. However, it is hard to put such profits into figures.

The above does not mean that the Netherlands should try to get even more overseas students to attend its universities, says Freddy Weima, Director-General of EP-Nuffic. “What we want is good international students, because they will contribute to our economy and education system.”

Concerns about number of students

Until 2012 some political parties were concerned about the number of international students attending Dutch higher education institutes. They wondered why we should we pay for their education. The then State Secretary for Education, Halbe Zijlstra of the Dutch Liberal Party (VVD), considered seeking compensation from the neighbouring countries whose students the Netherlands was educating.

But then the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) calculated that highly educated foreigners actually bring in money for the Netherlands. Even if only a small percentage of foreign students remained in the Netherlands after graduating, the country would still make a profit, the Bureau stated. And thus opinions on the internationalisation of higher education changed.

And now it transpires that international students are even more lucrative than previously assumed. The Dutch state is expected to make €1.57 billion off them in the long term. During the years of the global financial crisis, slightly more international students returned to their home countries, EP-Nuffic found, but five years later, 36 percent is still here. It is expected that some 25 percent of these students will remain in the Netherlands in the long term.

Hard euros

“We knew because of anecdotal evidence,” Weima said, “and now we have the figures to prove it. Politicians often debate internationalisation, which is exactly why it is important that we show them that there are real profits to be made, in hard euros as well as in other regards.”

In addition to bringing in money, international students are said to be improving the quality of Dutch degree programmes. According to EP-Nuffic, they are quicker to graduate than most students and have above-average final marks.