Studying in the Netherlands? You may now be forced to learn Dutch

Attention, international students: it’s time to get your Dutch on during class. 🇳🇱

In recent years, the rise of international students studying in the Netherlands has led to a variety of problems, such as a lack of housing, lecture halls being overcrowded, and Dutch students being outnumbered by students from abroad

This has led to Dutch universities putting their recruitment of international students on hold to limit their intake. In order to contain the flow of international students, Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, wants to introduce something new: lessons taught entirely in Dutch.

Class is in session maar in het Nederlands 

Dijkgraaf wants Dutch to become the main language in education again. While this is the case on paper, most lessons at universities are given entirely in English. 

Another reason why Dijkgraaf wants international students to start learning Dutch is that this increases the chances that they will stay in the Netherlands after finishing their studies. 

Good education? Absolutely! International students continue to come to the Netherlands for their studies. Image: Depositphotos

Echt waar? (Really?) These measures proposed by Dijkgraaf will not take effect immediately, so international students that are not yet comfortable with their language skills will have time to brush up on their Dutch. 

The minister is also currently working on further plans and legislation on the subject, which he intends to send to the House of Representatives before the summer. In addition to this, he plans to encourage colleges to stop actively recruiting foreign students for the time being.

A continuous worry for Dutch education 

There are now a whopping 115,000 international students in the Netherlands, which is 3.5 times as many as in 2005. 

While Dijkgraaf thinks that attracting many foreign students benefits both Dutch society and the knowledge economy, he notes that the continuous flow of international students needs to be contained. “We don’t have enough control over it,” he told the NOS

Dijkgraaf fears that if no action is being taken to control the intake of international students, the quality of colleges and universities will deteriorate to such an extent “that this will undermine our international top position.”

READ MORE | Universities outside the Randstad don’t want to limit the intake of international students

To find a solution, Dijkgraaf wants to establish central management with regard to how Dutch society and the education system can cope with the issue, rather than just dictating what a university can do. 

One method of doing so is by setting a maximum number of places for foreign students. Also known as an “emergency capacity fixus”, it can be used in the event that there is a large number of applications from students from outside Europe.

This, in turn, also allows Dutch students to continue having access to their university of choice. 

What do you think about these measures to control the rise of international students? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Francesca Burbano
Francesca Burbano
Francesca is an international at heart but moved to the Netherlands to get her degree in media and communication. While she's not a big fan of the cold weather and biking (for good reason — she's been hit by bikes three times already), she fell in love with the canals, bitterballen, and the 'gezelligheid' of Dutch culture. When she's not writing, you'll find her reading thriller books, hitting her personal records at the gym, and cuddling up with her Ragdoll cat.


  1. Is it possible that I can join the school to learn Dutch language and my course even if I am a refugee staying in camp

  2. Students will be required to learn Dutch. Nobody is being threatened with dire consequences for noncompliance. Or will need to learn… “forced” is one of those journalistic buzzwords that Orwell warned against. Eschew whatever the sheep are bleating. 🐑


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