‘Thousands of jobs thanks to foreign students’

The student association for international relations (SIB) during the induction days, the UIT, last year. Photo: DUB

Foreign students are simply good for the economy of college towns, according to think tank The class of 2020, in a succinct report. More students, of course, means more employment.

And if those highly educated persons stick around, it gets even better. International students bring the treasury around 1.57 billion euros a year, according to calculations done by internationalization organization Nuffic. And they’re good students to boot: they get good grades, and study at a faster pace than Dutch students.

Why not?
So why should we not try to get many more foreign students to come here, The class of 2020 wonders. There are around 80.000 foreign students in the Netherlands at the moment, but that number could easily triple.

The report compares several Dutch cities, and calculates what the presence of additional foreign students could offer. Outlier is Maastricht, already the most international college town in the Netherlands, which could gain an extra 473 million euros a year.

The report warns that to maximize that gains, we’d need a lot more living space for students. To get there, the Netherlands should abolish quite a number of rules surrounding the housing market. “The current overregulation is needlessly standing in the way of (international) investors,” the report says.

The recommendations are nothing new – The class of 2020 was launched in 2011. The organization, which has its headquarters in Amsterdam, has been researching the housing market for students and organizing conferences ever since. They have created a network aimed at making student housing ‘efficient, international and welcoming’.

Among their partners are real estate developers, educational institutions and city leadership officials. Their list includes, for example, internationalization organization Nuffic, association of universities VSNU and the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, but also The Student Hotel, Property EU, Casa, Building Foundation and Xior Student Housing.

“I do recognize some of the things the report mentions,” says director Ardin Mourik of knowledge center Kences. His organization is not involved with The class of 2020. “We’ve done similar research on the impact of students on the economy of cities.”

It’s a known fact that urban economy grows when the number of students increases, Mourik says. “It’s not without reason that The Hague is trying so hard to become a real college town. There are many chances to market the Dutch college towns as true knowledge cities.”

The internationalization of higher education is more and more under attack. Politicians are sensitive to the criticism that study programs are ‘englifying’ themselves, and want to reduce that trend – even though the government doesn’t want to limit the number of foreign students coming to the Netherlands.

Vertaling: Indra Spronk