The strongest increase this year was recorded in the universities’ bachelor programmes: 20.4 percent of the recent intake concerns ‘internationals’ – compared to 17.8 percent last year. This is the first year more international students will be attending a bachelor programme at a research university (30,500) rather than at a university of applied sciences (27,186). Still, the Netherlands’ master programmes remain a perennial favourite: 23.6 percent of the master students walking around Dutch universities come from abroad.


Most international students hail from Germany (22,584). But we can also see a growing number of Italians (4,814) in the Netherlands’ lecture halls. This year, the Italians have even managed to overtake the Chinese (4,547) – putting them in second place.

More and more Italians are studying abroad as it is, according to Nuffic spokesperson Anne Lutgerink: “this can be partly attributed to the poor economic situation in their home country”. And the number of Chinese students who decide to study in the West has been levelling off for some years too. According to Nuffic, the Chinese government is investing more heavily in its own education sector, and a growing number of students opt for programmes elsewhere in Asia. What’s more, there are actually fewer students in China overall. The number of pupils in Chinese secondary schools has decreased as a result of the government’s now abolished one-child policy.

More and more ‘internationals’ choosing Rotterdam

The university with the largest share of international students – both in absolute and relative terms – continues to be that of Maastricht. According to Nuffic, it’s remarkable how many ‘internationals’ decide to study at Leiden University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the University of Groningen and the University of Amsterdam. Ten years ago, no more than 1 out of 10 students came from abroad. Nowadays it’s a different story: at the University of Groningen, 22.4 percent are ‘internationals’, and they constitute roughly 20 percent of both the UvA and EUR student bodies.


The universities of technology in Delft, Twente, Eindhoven and Wageningen also attract a large number of students, most of whom pursue their master’s degree or doctorate at these institutions. Twente recorded the steepest increase in ‘internationals’: from 21.3 percent in 2016-2017 to 26.8 percent this academic year. The total number of international students at the Dutch universities of technology has quadrupled over the past decade.

The most popular discipline among international students attending a Dutch university is humanities (12,370). Psychology has proven particularly ‘hot’, with 6,786 international enrolments. The largest single contingent is formed by international students enrolled in a ‘university college’ programme.


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