We need international students, migration committee believes

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If the population of the Netherlands grows moderately to about 20 million people, the country will become stronger, according to a report published Monday by the Government Committee on Demographic Developments in 2050 (document available in Dutch only, Ed.).

The committee was established at the end of 2022 before the collapse of the cabinet. Since then, the far-right political party PVV has emerged as the largest party in the latest elections to the House of Representatives. Another party, NSC, also holds a key position in the negotiations to form the next cabinet. Both parties would like to significantly curb migration. 

This means that they are also suspicious of study-related migration. In their view, there are too many international students coming to the Netherlands, which is why they are considering switching all Bachelor's programmes back to Dutch, with the possible exception of universities of technology.

But, according to the committee, there are no financial arguments to support such a proposal. “Student migrants bring more benefits than expenses for the state's budget,” says the report. This applies to all higher education students from Europe and further afield. The balance remains positive even when the costs of social security, healthcare and general facilities are taken into account. After all, a part of those students will stay in the Netherlands to work and those with higher education degrees usually pay more taxes.

That said, the increasing internationalisation of higher education does pose challenges in terms of accessibility and resources. For example, international students make use of the scarce housing available in university cities. The committee also mentions study spots on campus and student healthcare. “This raises questions about how all of this impacts opportunities for Dutch nationals to use the facilities.”

Equal opportunity is already an important topic when it comes to education, especially considering the increasing teacher shortage in the country. There is a risk that rich families will turn to private institutions to educate their kids more and more, which will increase inequality even further. “Children’s opportunities are not merely determined by their talents and efforts”, the committee states.

Social and robust
The committee doesn’t propose any solutions to the issues named. They say that, above all, the government should make “social and robust choices”. In addition, they recommend the government keep an eye on the gap between the highly educated and the rest of the population, to promote social cohesion. Equal access to things like healthcare and education is of major importance for “social solidarity”, the committee believes. The gap between young and old in the housing market is another example of an issue deserving of attention.