Tuesday 21 March 2023

Action is need to curb international student numbers, universities warn

The University of Twente warns bike-riding students in two languages. Photo: DutchNews.nl

The number of international students coming to the Netherlands rose by 4% at the start of the current academic year, and three in 10 of this year’s new student intake come from abroad, according to preliminary figures from Dutch universities’ association VNSU.

There are now almost 80,000 foreign students attending Dutch university courses, of whom three quarters are from within the EU. International students now account for 23% of the total student body.

The growth in numbers is so great that the University of Amsterdam can no longer cope, the Parool reported on Thursday.

‘We can no longer deal with the growth,’ UvA chairwoman Geert ten Dam told the paper. ‘There is a shortage of housing, there is not enough room on the campuses, the work our staff face is unacceptable and the quality of education is coming under pressure.’

Ten Dam wants the government to take action to better manage the influx of international students, most of whom are entitled to study here under EU freedom of movement rules.’ But the issue has been declared ‘controversial’ and will not be looked at until there is a new government.

Ten Dam says the UvA cannot wait that long and may have to take ‘unconventional measures’ to regulate numbers.

One effect of the rise in international student numbers is that Dutch students are now having to compete with them for places in popular subjects. ‘I think education should remain open to Dutch students,’ she said.

VSNU chairman Pieter Duisenberg is also calling for legal measures to steer the numbers. ‘Internationalisation contributes to the quality of education,’ he said. ‘But there are limits to the options. Both universities and the cities where they are based are being stretched to the limit. It has to be done differently.’


Housing in particular is a problem for foreign and domestic students, with the current shortfall put at least 26,500 places.

Foreign students face particular problems in finding a place to live because they usually have no network and universities are not required by law to house them.

In September, some 600 foreign students contacted Groningen volunteer organisation Shelter our Students, which tries to find temporary accommodation and lodgings for them. The University of Twente even went so far as to recommend foreign students did not come because of the shortage of places to live.

The annual search for student accommodation is made worse by the fact that foreign students are not welcome in many Dutch student houses. Vacant rooms are often advertised on Facebook and specialist housing sites with the proviso ‘no internationals’ and ‘Dutch only’, even though this may break anti-discrimination laws.

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