According to the internationalisation-in-education organisation Nuffic, there are more than 112,000 international students in the Netherlands this academic year, who have 164 nationalities between them. Over 30,000 students are here to take a few degree subjects or do an internship only, but 81,000 students have come to complete an entire degree.

Spectacular growth

More than 50 percent of these students (48,000) are attending a university, which means that 18 percent of all students attending Dutch universities are foreign nationals. Ten years ago this number was a mere 8 percent. The number of international students taking a master in the Netherlands has grown particularly spectacularly.

The number of foreign students attending universities of applied sciences has stagnated in the last few years. The number of international students attending Dutch universities of applied sciences fluctuates around an average of 33,000. Ten years ago 6.6 percent of all students attending Dutch universities of applied sciences were foreign nationals. The current number is 7.5 percent.

Nuffic points out that more and more international students are from outside Europe, with many of them coming from India, Indonesia and South Korea. However, Germans still make up the largest group (over 22,000 students), followed by the Chinese (4,300 students). Surprisingly enough, Dutch tertiary education institutions now attract more Italians than Belgians.


Maastricht University has been the most international university in the Netherlands for years. Over half of its students are from other countries. This percentage will only rise in the next few years, because only 35.5 percent of the current first-year students are Dutch.

Erasmus University and Groningen University each have over 5,000 international students. The Fontys Universities of Applied Sciences have 4,800, which means they just outscore Delft University of Technology and the University of Amsterdam.

The degrees that attract the greatest percentage of overseas students are the various universities’ university colleges (38.7 percent) and the art degrees offered by Dutch universities of applied sciences (31.8 percent).

Brain gain

Increased internationalisation in higher education is great for the Dutch economy, Nuffic reported last November. About a quarter of international students remain in the Netherlands and continue to work here for the rest of their lives, thus adding a “brain gain” worth over €1.5 billion to our knowledge economy.