New estimates

Ministry of Education expects number of students to diminish significantly

UU's open day. Photo: DUB

A year ago, the ministry forecast that, in 2029, there would be 18,000 fewer students at universities of applied sciences than today. The statisticians now believe that there will actually be 40,000 fewer.

As for research universities, they were expected to attract 65,000 more students than today but, according to the latest baseline forecast (in Dutch, Ed.), there will be only 23,000.

Too optimistic
The Ministry underestimated the growth in student numbers for years, especially at the research universities. To the dismay of the higher education institutions, that resulted in shortfalls in the state budget and cuts in higher education. The feeling now is that the Ministry was too optimistic last year.

The upcoming introduction of the basic student grant might have something to do with the lower influx in the current academic year. Many youngsters have taken a gap year instead of carrying on with their studies straight away.

But that makes no difference in the long run as the ministry expects them to go back to higher education institutions anyway. The future decline has other causes.

Tight labour market
A more significant issue is the fact that many students drop out, which means fewer seniors. Academic setbacks that arose during the coronavirus pandemic might play a role, but the higher number of dropouts could also result from the appeal of the tight labour market.

This means that senior secondary vocational students find a job more quickly and are less likely to pursue higher education. The same applies at research universities: in 2022, fewer Bachelor’s students went straight on to a Master’s programme. The ministry believes the labour market will continue to be in need of workers for a while.

The forecasts are uncertain, however. Maybe the lapsed students will resume their studies later, which has not been taken into account in the forecasts.

What about international students? How many of them will come here? That calculation could be better too, in the opinion of a special committee that oversees the forecasts. In the current forecasts, the ministry is simply extending the graph's line (linear extrapolation), “which suggests the possibility of never-ending growth”, according to the committee. “That isn’t realistic.”

Tags: inflow