Possibly fewer internationals: few emergency scenarios yet

Are there still students coming from abroad? Photo Lorri Lay/Pixabay

Foreign students are finding their way to Dutch universities more and more. Last year, there were over 85,000, according to internationalisation organisation Nuffic; 11.5 percent of all enrolled students.

But that was before the coronavirus threw a spanner in the works. Now, according to Nuffic, we have to consider the possibility that fewer international students will be enrolled. Per absent EEA student, this entails an average difference of about 7,000 euros, excluding tuition fees. For students from outside Europe, who pay the institutional fee, that amount is often even higher. How are universities of applied sciences and universities preparing for this?

Just as busy
"We are not yet thinking about emergency scenarios", says Rector Magnificus Rianne Letschert of Maastricht University, for years the university with by far the most internationals. "After all, we are not yet seeing a decline in the number of applications. Our admission officers are just as busy as last year".

As usual, many of these applications come from Germany, but also from the severely affected Italy. "In spite of everything, I feel that young people are still thinking about their future a lot," says Letschert. "They are thinking: right now, everything is at a standstill, but soon life will go back to normal. And fortunately, studying is part of that".

The University of Groningen, where last year 1 in 5 students came from abroad, is not worried either. "As long as the application deadline hasn't passed, we don't see any reason to worry yet," says a spokesperson. "Last week, our online master's day was visited by many international students as well."

At Utrecht University, a possible decrease is taken into account. On 1 October 2019, there were about 3400 international students enrolled, of whom about 1300 were enrolled in a bachelor's programme and over 2000 in a master's programme. The number of applications shows the same interest, reports UU, but it remains to be seen whether these will all be converted into an enrolment.

Fontys Universities of Applied Sciences, which opened its doors last year to more than 4500 internationals, is leaving room for the unknown. "We're expecting a lower influx," reports a spokesperson. But he can't say exactly how. "However, it is possible that it will help that many of our internationals are German students studying on campus in Venlo," he continues. "That's almost a regional university of applied science."

The University of Twente, where more than a quarter of the students come from abroad, does have its concerns. "Although, it is still difficult to estimate how big the influence will be," says a spokesperson. "Over the past month, our main concern has been to get online education up and running.

The Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences calls the impact of a lower international influx large. In a number of study programmes, 30 percent of the students come from Europe or abroad, a spokesperson says. The University of Applied Sciences is currently working on scenarios that will have consequences for planning, budget and staff deployment.

Better to be safe than sorry
In any case, it is better to be safe than sorry, they think at the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. "We are now investigating to what extent the admission of foreign students can run as smoothly as possible," says spokesman Eva Kloosterman. "We are discussing this with, among others, the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service) and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. This concerns, for example, school exams and compulsory language tests that have been postponed in many countries, but also residence permits that are now being applied for later.