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Number of Bachelor’s students hits all-time high, both in Utrecht and nationwide

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The number of students at the UU has grown by 9% this year to almost 36,000, according to preliminary figures. Nationwide, there are now 328,000 students, twice as many as twenty years ago.

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Utrecht is one of the universities where the number of Bachelor’s students is rising most sharply: UU now has more than 24,000 Bachelor’s students, a 10% increase compared to 2019. The number of Master’s students has also grown by 7% to just over 12,000.

A total of 35,987 students are now enrolled in the UU, 3006 more than last year. Some of them pursue a Bachelor's and a Master's degree at the same time. The increase is particularly visible in the Law programme, which now has 65% more students than last year. Extra teachers have been hired to cope with this.

UU’s enrollment figures follow the announcement by university association VSNU that the number of students attending Dutch universities has grown by 8% to 328,000. Students attending a University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool) are also on the rise: the VSNU counts a 10% increase in relation to last year, most of them attending pre-Master’s programmes. However, the number of Master’s students in the Universities of Applied Sciences has risen only slightly.

Goodbye, gap year
COVID-19 is one of the reasons behind the strong growth, according to VSNU. Forced to stay at home, many pupils in secondary school have passed the VWO exam this year, which grants them access to the preparatory education required to be admitted to a university. VWO enrolment has grown by 15%, the VSNU says. In addition, many VWO graduates have ditched a gap year due to the numerous travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, deciding to go straight to the university instead.

International students
One would expect the travel restrictions to diminish the influx of international students in the Netherlands, but nothing could be further from the truth. The country is seeing 10 to 12% more students from the European Economic Area (which comprises all EU countries plus Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland). The number of non-EEA students, however, is decreasing. In August, the Dutch Immigration Office (IND) announced that the number of visa applications for higher education is about 40% lower than in previous years. Official numbers haven’t been released yet.

In Utrecht, the number of international students increased this year from about 3500 to 4100. The amount of EEA students at Bachelor’s level grew by 22%, while the number of non-EEA students rose by 25%. As for the Master’s, Utrecht now has 19% more EEA students, while the number of non-EEA students decreased by 1%.

Binding Student Advice
Furthermore, according to the VSNU, 7% of Dutch students normally drop out in the first year, compared to only 5.4% now. Because of the Corona crisis, first-year students who had not actually scored enough credits were allowed to go on to the second year on a conditional basis. At the same time, however, fewer students graduated than expected because of corona related delays.

"Next year we will will see what the consequences of postponing the binding study advice will be," says VSNU president Pieter Duisenberg. He thinks it is quite possible that the dropout rate will rise next year because some of the students will still get stuck. All in all, he expects that the growth spurt will increase the pressure on the universities and their staff. "This strengthens our plea for structural investments in scientific education,” he says.

The final enrollment figures, broken down by university, will be announced early next year.

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