The universities published the figures on Monday. They are taking the opportunity to call on politicians for more possibilities to control the influx of international students.

Rector magnificus Annelien Bredenoord says in EM that she sees this as a potential financial problem. She notes that EUR is ‘bursting at the seams’, but she did not know whether you ‘can link a maximum number to this’. The amount of money needed to facilitate international students at the university in the long term is not yet clear.

The universities have been complaining for years about excessive workload, among others due to the increasing numbers of students they are attracting. That continued growth is partly because so many study programmes are given in English and more foreign students are coming to the Netherlands. That has consequences: lecture halls are crowded and for some numerus fixus studies based on selection, Dutch students are rejected in favour of internationals.

This week, the House of Representatives debated internationalisation in higher education. The universities want to keep the good elements of internationalisation, they say in a press release, while limiting the number of international students for some study programmes.


Their wish: they want to be able to set a numerus fixus for an English stream in a popular study programme. This will ensure a maximum number of international students, while Dutch students can start the Dutch variant with no restrictions. A draft law is currently in the Senate which would make this possible. However, following the fall of the last cabinet, this has been put on ice.

Universities also want study programmes to be allowed to set a maximum number of students from outside Europe. They would then treat Germans, Belgians and Swiss students, for example, differently from Chinese, Indians and Brazilians.

In an interview with NOS, Pieter Duisenberg, president of the national lobby organisation Universities of the Netherlands (UNL), wonders why there is no maximum yet. “Universities in other countries are allowed to set maximum numbers. We can’t. We are required to accept any student who enrols.”

The universities also want to be able to set an ‘emergency maximum’ if a study programme grows unexpectedly fast. That is not currently legally permitted. It must be clear in advance if a study programme accepts a limited number of students.

First years

In 2020, a wave of first years came to the universities. This was due to coronavirus: the central exams had not been held, more school leavers passed their final year and taking a gap year made no sense. This year (2021), slightly fewer first years came to the universities but still more than in 2019, the year before the pandemic. Three universities are an exception: they still had an increase in the number of first year bachelor students. These were the University of Amsterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam and the University of Twente. The biggest decline in the intake is visible in Utrecht, Nijmegen, Eindhoven and Wageningen.