Many students are drawn to study in the Netherlands because of the high level of English and relatively low tuition fees. But some government ministers are noticing that accepting too many students from abroad is starting to interfere with the quality of education. VVD believes to control this, limits must be set on how many international students are permitted. 

Should numbers be capped or students just discouraged from applying?

As it currently stands, Dutch universities cannot set limits for students wanting to attend from outside Europe. But VVD MP, Dennis Wiersma, think the restriction is important to maintain a high quality of education. He also believes that the programme the students are applying for should be an influencing factor. “Now there are many students who study psychology. We don’t need that” Wiersma states. He thinks a priority should be given to technical studies students.

Ingrid van Engelshoven, the D66 Education Minister, does not want universities to cap the number of foreign students. Instead, she says it is better to discourage interest by raising tuition fees and making Dutch lessons mandatory. Wiersma does not agree, Het Parool reports. 

The freedom of movement principle and EU students

Students within the European Economic Area cannot be subjected to limits as this would conflict with freedom of movement. Whilst this principle is good in theory, Wiersma says it actually ends up costing the Netherlands a lot of money. This is because the the government not only has to pay a portion of the tuition costs for Dutch students but also for EU students. Wiersma doesn’t believe this is fair and wants to open up a dialogue in Brussels about other countries settling the cost.

Last month, the Social and Economic Council (SER) also advised the cabinet that a European fund should be created for the Netherlands for the high influx of students from EU countries.

Cities also struggling to cope with the students

TU Delft acknowledges the impact international students have on the quality of education. For example, 260 students applied for a computer science and engineering course when it was taught in Dutch but this leapt to 400 students when the program was switched to English.

Canal in Delft. Source: djedj /Pixabay

Tim van der Hagen, the rector of TU Delft thinks the university would benefit from a cap but not just from an education standpoint. He states that the city of Delft cannot handle the number of students either. “It is now squeaking and crackling”, he comments. 

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