Netherlands: A Third of International Grads Stay to Work

 In News


The Netherlands has long been a favored destination for international students seeking high-quality education and vibrant cultural experiences. However, beyond the enriching academic journey, recent data from the Central Bureau of Statistics reveals an interesting trend – a growing number of international graduates are choosing to stay and work in the country after completing their studies. In the 2018/2019 academic year, 32% of international students decided to build their careers in the Netherlands, a significant increase from the previous rate of around 20%. This trend has sparked debates within the country’s educational and policy circles, emphasizing the economic and societal value of retaining international talent.

The Economic Value of International Graduates

Lucette Roovers, the director of global engagement at Breda University of Applied Sciences, points out that international students have a substantial economic impact on the Dutch economy, especially in the years immediately following their graduation. In 2019, the Central Planning Bureau calculated those European students contributed nearly €17,000 on average to the Dutch treasury, while non-EEA students contributed even more, with an average of over €96,000. These contributions come from various sources, including taxes and spending on goods and services. Therefore, retaining international graduates is not just beneficial for the individuals but also for the country.

The Role of Universities in Promoting Retention

To facilitate the transition from student to employee, Dutch universities are playing an active role. Breda University of Applied Sciences, for instance, offers integrated and extracurricular Dutch language and culture modules to both Dutch and international students, making integration smoother and encouraging students to consider staying and working in the Netherlands.

Peter Birdsall, president of Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, believes that higher education is the simplest and easiest way to promote immigration and retention. However, he emphasizes the importance of aligning education programs with the job market’s needs and ensuring that international graduates can make meaningful contributions to Dutch society. This involves creating clear connections between academic programs and future job opportunities.

The Current Landscape of International Students

As of the 2022/2023 academic year, almost 123,000 international students were enrolled in Dutch universities and higher vocational education courses, comprising 15% of the total student population. This figure aligns with a healthy international higher education policy and reflects the Netherlands’ commitment to internationalization.

Challenges and Controversies

Despite the numerous benefits of hosting international students, there are challenges and controversies surrounding their presence in Dutch universities. Pieter Omtzigt, leader of the New Social Contract Party, has advocated for stricter anti-international student measures, arguing that Dutch taxpayers should not bear the burden of international students’ tuition fees, especially when many return to their home countries after graduation.

Additionally, a proposed law aims to reduce the number of English-taught courses at public universities and manage international student numbers more effectively. While this law is expected to come into effect in the near future, universities like Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, due to their independent status, will be exempt from these changes.

The Future of International Education in the Netherlands

The ongoing discussions and debates regarding international students in the Netherlands highlight the complex nature of global education. While there are valid concerns about managing the influx of international students and ensuring their contributions to Dutch society, it is equally important to recognize the benefits they bring in terms of diversity, cultural exchange, and economic growth.

Simone Hackett, a senior lecturer at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, emphasizes that cutting back on internationalization and English-taught courses could have adverse effects on intercultural learning, the presence of international educators, and international cooperation. These factors are crucial for both the educational system and the labor market.

In conclusion, the Netherlands’ growing appeal to international students is not only shaping its education landscape but also contributing to its economy and cultural diversity. While challenges persist, the focus should be on creating a balanced approach that ensures the benefits of internationalization are maximized while addressing the concerns raised by various stakeholders. Ultimately, nurturing international talent can help the Netherlands thrive in an increasingly globalized world.

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