The respondents who wish to stay here say that they are being given plenty of opportunity to develop their talents in the Netherlands. In addition, they feel that salaries are more generous here and that there is a better work-life balance than in their countries of origin. The international students also like the less hierarchical relationships between workers and their managers.
Work experience matters
International students wish to stay in the Netherlands after getting their degrees
80 per cent of the students expect to have difficulty finding a job in the Netherlands.
Forty-five per cent of the respondents have gained work experience in the Netherlands – some in shops, restaurants or cafés, others through internships, teaching or volunteering. This work experience has probably contributed to their decision to try and stay here, because no fewer than 70 per cent of students with work experience wish to stay here. Among other things, this is because their work experience has ‘motivated them to gain more experience in the Netherlands’, as one French respondent put it.
Nevertheless, students who have gained work experience in the Netherlands are not necessarily much more optimistic of their chances of landing a job than students without such work experience. Over half the respondents, both with and without experience, expect to have ‘difficulty’ or ‘great difficulty’ finding a job.
Students from outside the EU are more pessimistic
Even though over half the foreign students attending EUR would like to stay in the Netherlands, they are not necessarily optimistic about finding a job in the Dutch labour market. This is particularly true for students from non-EU member states. Over 80 per cent of these students believe it will be ‘hard’ or ‘very hard’ for them to find a job in the Netherlands in the future, versus 65 per cent of students from EU member states.
Work and residence permits are two reasons why non-EU students are concerned. The Netherlands has introduced a so-called ‘orientation year’ for recent graduates, giving them the time to find a suitable job. After this one-year period, non-EU graduates can only work in the Netherlands as highly skilled migrants if their employers are prepared to stand surety for them. “The orientation-year visa makes it a lot easier for recent graduates to persuade their employers to take a chance on them,” says Irene Kroon of the RSM Career Center. Nevertheless, a respondent from Vietnam said that her ‘non-European passport’ is the greatest obstacle to her finding a job here. A Russian student agreed. They are both convinced that ‘Dutch employers will not hire you if they have to stand surety’.
“Dutch employers will not hire you if they have to stand surety.”
Even so, 9 in 10 students from outside the EU wish to stay in the Netherlands. Irene Kroon said that number is familiar. Her organisation, the RSM Career Center, regularly conducts research on the position of RSM’s alumni (including international students) in the job market. “At our school many non-European students wish to remain in the Netherlands, as well. Some would rather go to UK or Germany, but since it is hard to get a visa for those countries, they will end up choosing to stay in the Netherlands,” Kroon explains.
‘You have to be able to speak Dutch’
The other international students claim the language barrier is the main obstacle standing in their way. They believe that most companies seek job candidates who speak Dutch, so “finding an international work environment will pose a bit of a challenge,” says an Indonesian student. Law and Psychology students, in particular, believe that an ability to speak Dutch will be vital to their careers.
In addition, many of the students find the Dutch labour market ‘highly competitive’. “You are not just competing against other international students, but also against the locals,” says a Mexican student. A student from Ecuador adds, “Since employers have so many applicants to choose from, they often have very specific requirements.”
‘I’ll go wherever I am offered an opportunity’
Approximately 20 per cent of the respondents are not sure yet whether they wish to stay here. Half of these students are in Year 1 or 2 of their Bachelor’s degrees and ‘need some more time to think’ about their future. Others say that the decision will depend mainly on ‘the opportunities’ they are given ‘towards the end of their degree programmes’, as they wish to keep their options open and ‘go wherever they are offered an opportunity’.
“It is very hard to find a job here as a foreigner.”
The 20 per cent who do not wish to stay in the Netherlands have interesting reasons for wanting to leave. Unlike many other respondents, they think the Dutch job market is not at all welcoming to international students. “It is very hard to find a job here as a foreigner,” writes an Italian student. “Even if you have better qualifications, they will opt for Dutch people, anyway,” claims another respondent, who is from Bangladesh.
Dutch culture, the system and the weather are all quoted as other reasons why people do not wish to stay here. “People are nice, but aloof,” says an Australian student. A German Econometrics student feels the country is ‘too socialistic’. “Low income but high tax rates,” says a Greek student. The most original reasons we saw quoted? “I miss the sun” and “this place has too many social justice warriors”.
Previous surveys of international students
According to the university’s 2017 annual report, EUR had 5,810 international students in that year, which amounts to some 22 per cent of the overall student population. RSM regularly conducts studies on the career perspective of its alumni (including its former international students). Last year, the International Student Barometer (ISB) conducted a survey as well. The results showed that more than 36 per cent of international students at the EUR want to stay in the Netherlands.
In 2015, a German agency that conducts research on integration and immigration distributed a survey among international students attending Dutch universities. That survey was part of a study on retaining talent in several European countries. The survey showed that 60 per cent of international Master’s and PhD students wished to stay in the Netherlands after completing their degrees.
Internationalisation-in-education organisation Nuffic, too, conducted a study last year on international students’ stay rate, i.e., the percentage of international students who still live in the Netherlands five years after graduating. Nearly a quarter of international students who have graduated from a Dutch university or university of applied sciences still live in the Netherlands five years later. According to the results of a previous study, one in five international graduates choose to stay in the Netherlands for ever.
When it comes to international students attending EUR, the stay rate is higher than the national average, as 26 per cent of international EUR students still live in the Netherlands five years after getting their degrees. This number was obtained from a study of international students who were awarded their degrees between 2006 and 2013.
EM surveyed 180 international students regarding their wish to stay in the Netherlands and find a job here after obtaining their degrees, and regarding their expectations of the job-seeking process. 90 international students from EU member states answered the questions, as well as 90 students from non-EU countries. 99 respondents are Master’s students, while the remaining respondents are all doing a Bachelor’s degree.