Are there too many foreign students in the Netherlands?

Too many international students in the Netherlands?

This discussion is getting all too familiar for the Netherlands recently, as some universities increase their English-taught university courses. This has resulted in discussion on whether there are too many foreign students in the Netherlands.

With increasing the range of English taught courses, you also increase the amount of foreign students applying and coming the Netherlands to study. This is causing all sorts of discussion around the foreign student housing crisis, the ‘abandoning’ of the Dutch language, and the crazy-high university application numbers.

Psychology course at UvA reaches an all time high

The University of Amsterdam (UvA), has acknowledged that student numbers are causing issues with applications numbers and housing shortages. Currently, 25% of all first years at UvA are international students, and 164 different nationalities overall. UvA suggested that they are going to slow the growth of international students. However, the current news says otherwise.

A psychology course was open for enrollment at the University of Amsterdam last week. The course has room for 600, for which 594 were Dutch applicants. This sounds great, however since UvA are offering the course in English from September, the total number of applications reached 1,854. The applications were received from people from all over the world.

Psychology is already a very popular course to take. This resulted in the university capping the number of students to just 600. The university then offered the course in English, so then it would attract more students. This doesn’t really make any sense, considering 1,254 students are now going to be turned down.

Student housing crisis for foreign students in the Netherlands

This isn’t new news to everybody’s ears, as this issue has been going on for a while, and steadily getting worse. A major concern is that there is a shortage of affordable housing in Amsterdam and other large student cities. The size of these cities are not in line with the population growth. The shortage of housing has left hundreds of students sleeping in emergency shelters. There are also reports of students sofa surfing, sleeping in cars, sleeping at their student SU and returning home during study as they are homeless.

Looking at this graph, you can see just how much the international growth is. Housing needs to be provided.

international students in dutch universities
Source: Quartz, Nuffic

English taught courses – washing out the Dutch ones?

At Dutch universities, there is actually more English taught courses than there are Dutch. Around 60% are taught completely in English. For master’s degrees, this rises to 70%. This sparks debate on whether this is damaging to Dutch students and whether it is literally washing out the Dutch language courses. The Netherlands currently has the highest level of English proficiency in mainland Europe (non-native).

The debate on foreign students in the Netherlands

This can be seen from both sides.

There is currently a shortage of Dutch psychologists. This is not helped by the fact that it will be even harder for Dutch students to get on the psychology courses. Foreign students could learn all the skills needed to further their careers in social science, and then go back to their country and take it with them. Again, this results in a shortage of psychologists overall.

There is also an argument to suggest that tax payers money is now being used on foreign students to study. The Dutch students are the ones contributing to the tax system, something which would not happen if foreign students were to go back home.

However, on the other hand, it would be wrong to assume that most foreign students who study here, instantly go home after completion. I for one, only came to the Netherlands to complete a semester of 3 months at university, with definite plans to return to the UK after completion. It will be 2 years in Spring since completion of that semester abroad. I decided to finish my degree in the Netherlands and I’m still here with no plans to go back.

It can work both ways, as the popularity of Dutch students going abroad is rising. This is likely due to the extremely high standard of English that is emerging from Dutch students. This arguably broadens their horizons and encourages them to also study abroad.

International students also pay more than Dutch students, which in turn brings more money into the country.

It’s a difficult topic, with many issues on both sides. What do you think about this topic? Let us know what you think in the comments!




Emma Brown
Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.


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