Dutch universities outside of the Randstad region have raised concerns about the Dutch government’s plan to cap the number of international students in the Netherlands, with a number of higher education institutions telling Trouw that they depend on the enrollment of students from abroad. 

The Netherlands facing a growing number of international students

Various Dutch cities are suffering from a serious shortage of student housing, which has over the past several years led to international students starting their studies without anywhere to live. Combine this with the fact that, as the international student population grows, universities in the Netherlands have been struggling to accommodate the rising number of students from abroad

At the end of last year, the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) called on Dutch universities to stop actively recruiting students from abroad. At the time, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science, Robbert Dijkgraaf, said he would present a plan to tackle the issue of rising student numbers in February 2023. 

Some Dutch universities argue that students from abroad are vital

But, now that February is here, universities located outside of the Randstad – the central region of the country that contains the four largest cities and houses almost half the country’s population – have said that international students make up a key part of their student body, and have asked the Dutch government to reconsider the plan to limit recruitment efforts. 

“In Limburg, the presence of international talent is not only logical in a region where three national borders meet, but also a condition for a full and strong range of education,” a spokesperson for Maastricht University told Trouw. The University of Twente agrees, with a spokesperson explaining that the university “[has] enough space for all students and the entire region needs international students.”

The HZ University of Applied Sciences in Zeeland has also raised concerns about a possible cap on international students outside of the Randstad: “For us, it is important to prepare and train students in an international environment where they can learn from each other.” As an alternative solution, the University of Twente points out that there shouldn’t be a “one size fits all” policy, suggesting instead that universities should be able “to decide for themselves where to adjust the influx of students.” 

Dutch government divided, awaiting action plan from Education Minister

Tuesday saw the House of Representatives set aside six hours to discuss the issue, as both the House and Dijkgraaf would like to prevent Dutch universities from attending and actively recruiting students at international education fairs. Political parties are also asking for universities to limit the number of English-speaking students and the number of students from countries outside of Europe.

MP Pieter Omtzigt, who requested the debate, argues that the internationalisation of Dutch universities has gone too far. “In the border regions, you may have to look at more options. But now it’s too much.” Addressing Dijkgraaf on Tuesday, Hatte van der Woude, an MP for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), agreed: “A lecture hall should not be full of only Germans or Chinese.”

On the other hand, the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) points out that international students are crucial to the Dutch economy, with each student contributing between 5.000 and 94.000 euros to the treasury. In parliament on Tuesday, both the VVD and D66 argued that any caps should be open to “customisation” for different universities.

Thumb: Foto Para Ti via Shutterstock.com.

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