This was a pressing issue in Dutch higher education circles last summer: how many international students would actually come to the Netherlands in September? Would the inflow of enrolments dry up? As it turned out the number of internationals at our universities increased substantially (+13 percent) and the reduction in enrolments at the universities of applied sciences was limited (-2.7 percent).

The application period for the 2021-2022 academic year is now in full swing and the tension is again rising among administrators. Therefore, last month the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education Nuffic asked the opinion of 526 aspiring students who had previously expressed interest in studying in the Netherlands.


What did they find? Despite all the uncertainties of the crisis as it drags on, prospective students remain interested in studying in the Netherlands. Nearly two-thirds of respondents expect to attend a university or university of applied sciences here in September.

Future students are particularly enthusiastic about the quality of higher education in the Netherlands. More than 87 percent cited this as an important reason for coming here. About the same number see the positive value of a degree from a Dutch university on the international job market. The reputation and global ranking of Dutch institutions add to the appeal.


But it isn’t one big paean of praise: respondents have little positive to say about the developments around the coronavirus in this country. Other drawbacks cited deal with the drain on student bank accounts. Costs of living, housing and tuition fees are considered (too) high.

Moreover, a not unimportant question is: will classes be given in the traditional way on campus or is it going to be spending the whole day at home in front of a laptop again? Seven in ten respondents are worried about this issue, and 46 percent would even see online education as a reason to abandon plans to study in the Netherlands.


Nuffic spokesperson Jeroen Wienen is happy with the results of the survey. “This shows that the reputation of study programmes in the Netherlands has not been damaged in the eyes of foreign students. That’s great, especially when you think of what a difficult year it’s been for all the educational institutions.”

He doesn’t think it negative that so many students don’t want online classes. “It shows that students are thinking this through. It looks as though many of them choose to study here for the total experience and not just on the basis of a university’s name. Otherwise they would be fine with getting their piece of paper from home, sitting in bed with a laptop.”

Plus the universities and universities of applied sciences are not themselves in favour of online classes, Wienen continues. “Internationalised classrooms have much greater value, but the best way to achieve this is offline, sitting together in a classroom.’’

NESO Offices

International student applicants have every right to hope this is how it will turn out, if it’s up to outgoing education minister Van Engelshoven. She foresees few restrictions still remaining in September, although institutions must also take into account the possibility of a disappointing scenario.

The Nuffic survey was sent out via the Netherlands Education Support Offices (NESO Offices) and through Study in Holland channels. The majority of the respondents came from Indonesia, Germany, China and Vietnam.