For many years, the total number of international students (including students in later years) increased substantially, but not anymore: two years ago, growth stood at 12 percent, a year later it was down to 7 percent and the latest figures from internationalisation organisation Nuffic report a growth rate of 5.4 percent.

Basic student grant

The influx of new international students also continues to rise but only by a modest 2.6 percent. This is true of Master’s programmes and higher professional programmes but not of university Bachelor’s programmes. For the first time in almost two decades, the number of new international enrolments in these programmes fell by 0.6 percent.

The number of first-year students coming to the Netherlands from the European Economic Area (EEA) has remained roughly the same for two years. Last year, Nuffic speculated that many European students may have postponed studying in the Netherlands until the reintroduction of the basic grant, but now that the grant is in place, nothing much seems to have changed. The number of first-year students from outside Europe did continue to grow: by 8.8 percent this year.

Overall, 26.4 percent of university students in the Netherlands now come from abroad; 8.2 percent is the figure for universities of applied sciences.

Language

For the first time, Nuffic looked at the language of tuition on the university Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes taken by international students: it found that 16.2 percent of foreign students were enrolled in a Dutch-taught Bachelor’s programme.

“This does not mean that all courses and reading material on these programmes are in Dutch”, Nuffic researcher Saoradh Favier explains. “But you do need a certain command of Dutch to take these programmes.” Students from Germany, Italy and France are most likely to take a Dutch-taught programme.

China

The figure for new student enrolments by Chinese students is particularly striking: up by 23 percent, the fastest rise in almost two decades. In January 2023, China abandoned its stringent Covid lockdown measures and reopened its borders. The influx of students from Ukraine also continues to grow, by 18 percent in the 2023-24 academic year.

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Germany still heads the table when it comes to countries of origin, though the Nuffic figures show another fall in the total number of new German students coming to the Netherlands, this time by 1,400. The number of British students also continues to decline. In 2020-21, the last academic year before the UK left the European Union, nearly 1,300 new British students enrolled, compared to just 477 today.

Breakdown by institution

Among Dutch research universities, the University of Amsterdam still attracts the highest number of international students: almost 15,000 or 34.5 percent of its total enrolments. Maastricht University is number two, where just over 13,000 foreign students account for almost 60 percent of total enrolments.

Fontys University of Applied Sciences once again ranks eighth in the top ten of major institutions, with 6,152 international students.

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Nuffic also provided an overview of the Dutch provinces where most international students enrol. Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland combined account for 56,000 (44 percent of the national total). Other provinces popular with international students include Limburg, Noord-Brabant and Groningen. Less than 2,000 foreign students come to study in the provinces of Zeeland, Drenthe and Flevoland each year.

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