According to the magazine published by the General Union of Educational Personnel (AOb), specialised universities like Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University & Research don’t have to do a lot of marketing to draw international students. But it’s a different story for other research universities and universities of applied sciences. Saxion is an example of a university of applied sciences that has consciously decided to become a dual-language institution, in the hope of attracting more international students. This way, Saxion hopes to compensate for demographic decline in the eastern Netherlands.


It is estimated that 1 out of 5 international students registered at a Dutch institution has actually been recruited via an agency. The educational institution pays a fee for each student supplied by the agency: around 10 to 15 percent of the tuition fee – on average, 1500 euro. The higher the fee doled out by a university, the stronger the incentive for an agency to send students to that particular institution.

While international students are good for extra funds, there’s also a downside to this particular approach, according to Onderwijsblad. The agencies work hard to jack up the intake. They try to bring underqualified students up to par with expensive transfer programmes, for example – to ensure that they are yet admitted. It remains to be seen whether this raises their academic potential to the required level.

A bit strong

The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (Vereniging Hogescholen, VH) disputes this version of affairs. “We continue to see a limited increase in the number of international diploma students in the higher vocational education sector, which has remained under 6 percent for years now,” says a VH spokesperson when asked about the matter. “We are not pursuing any active policies to promote the intake of international students, nor have we observed a proliferation of recruitment agencies.”

Spokesperson Bart Pierik of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (Vereniging van Universiteiten, VSNU) informs us that it’s up to the universities themselves whether or not they collaborate with recruitment agencies. In his view, Onderwijsblad’s contention that the Dutch institutions are actively recruiting students in a ‘super-competitive market dominated by big money, where universities from the Anglosphere call the shots’ is putting it ‘a bit strong’. Pierik: “The Netherlands’ universities offer outstanding quality. They can all be found among the top 250 worldwide – no wonder they’re popular beyond our borders.”