International students still want to come to the Netherlands – but not for online classes

Photo: DUB

When the pandemic broke out in 2020, Dutch higher education institutions started to wonder how many international students would actually come to the Netherlands in September. Thankfully, their worries did not come to pass, as research universities have seen an increase of 13 percent in the amount of foreign students, while universities of applied sciences have seen a mild decrease (- 2.7 percent). 

The application period for the 2021-2022 academic year is now in full swing and the tension is rising among administrators once again. That's why Nuffic, the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education, decided to survey 526 aspiring students who had previously expressed interest in studying in the Netherlands.

Their main takeaway? Despite all the uncertainties of the crisis, prospective students remain interested in studying in the Netherlands. Nearly two-thirds of respondents expect to attend a university or university of applied sciences in September.

Future students are particularly enthusiastic about the quality of higher education in the Netherlands. More than 87 percent cited this factor as an important reason for coming here. About the same number see the positive value of a degree from a Dutch university on the international job market. The reputation and global ranking of Dutch institutions add to the appeal.

But it's not all about praise: respondents don't seem very happy about the developments around the coronavirus in the Netherlands. The cost of living, housing, and tuition fees are also considered way too high.

Another key question on their minds is whether the classes will be given on campus or online in the next academic year. Seven in ten respondents are worried about that, as they're not interested in spending all their time in front of their laptop. Some 46 percent of respondents would even see online education as a reason to abandon their plans to study in the Netherlands altogether.

Despite the aforementioned criticisms, Nuffic spokesperson Jeroen Wienen is happy with the survey's results. “This shows that the reputation of study programmes in the Netherlands has not been damaged in the eyes of foreign students. That’s great, especially considering how difficult this year has been for all educational institutions.”

He doesn’t think it's negative that so many students refuse to take online classes. “It shows that they are thinking this through. It looks as though many of them choose to study here for the total experience, not just on the basis of a university’s name. Otherwise, they would be fine with getting their piece of paper from home, sitting in bed with a laptop.” 

Additionally, the universities and universities of applied sciences are not themselves in favour of online classes, Wienen continues. “Internationalised classrooms have much greater value, but the best way to achieve this is offline, sitting together in the same room.’’

NESO Offices
International student applicants have every right to hope this is how it will turn out, if it’s up to the outgoing Minister of Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven. She foresees few restrictions still remaining in September, although institutions must also take into account the possibility of a disappointing scenario.

The Nuffic survey was sent out via the Netherlands Education Support Offices (NESO Offices) and through Study in Holland channels. The majority of the respondents come from Indonesia, Germany, China and Vietnam.