Edition 216 - April 2019

International and foreign students in the Netherlands and France – latest figures

In March, both Nuffic and Campus France released reports related to international student mobility in the Netherlands and France, respectively. While very interesting, the national figures in the two reports are not immediately comparable, as they account for the status quo in two different academic years, i.e. 2018-2019 in the Netherlands and 2017-2018 in France, and as they are collected using different definitions of international degree mobility, namely based on foreign citizenship, i.e. foreign students (in the French report), and on the country of prior education, i.e. incoming degree students (for the Dutch report, and excluding ‘homecoming students’, i.e. students with a Dutch citizenship enrolled in Dutch higher education, but that have concluded their secondary education outside the Netherlands). Here are some of the highlights of the two reports.


The Nuffic report – Incoming degree student mobility in Dutch higher education 2018-2019 – focuses on incoming degree-seeking students only, with credit mobility due to be tackled in a separate report later this year. In line with the practice of Dutch higher education institutions, but in contrast to the international practice of UNESCO, OECD and Eurostat (UOE), the most recent edition of this yearly report excludes ‘homecoming students’ (as defined above) from the incoming degree students numbers, as these students are Dutch citizens (and thus not ‘internationals’), although they have previously studied abroad.

The figures show that:

  • in 2018-2019, there are 85 955 international degree students (11.5% of total student population) in the Netherlands, i.e. an increase from 10.5% in the previous year, representing 170 different nationalities. Of these, 15.6% of students are citizens of one of the 11 countries where a Netherlands Education Support Office (Neso) is located. In addition, there are 14 344 homecoming students enrolled in Dutch public higher education in the current academic year.
  • More students from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) come to the Netherlands – the share of non-EEA students among international students increased from 24.8% in 2016-2017, to 26.9% in 2018-2019.
  • 2018-2019 is the first academic year with more international degree students in Bachelor’s programmes at research universities (30 500) than at universities of applied sciences (UAS) (27 186), although the international students represent only 6.1% of all Bachelor’s students at UAS, and 16.6% at research universities Bachelor’s. For Master’s programmes, however, the shares of international students are still much higher. At research universities, international students account for 23.6% of all their Master’s students, while at UAS they make up 20.5% of all UAS Master’s students.
  • For the third year in a row, Italy is the country of origin with the greatest absolute growth in student numbers (4 814 students enrolled in the Netherlands), having now overtaken China as the 2nd most important country of origin after Germany.
  • Amsterdam is the city with the largest number of international degree students enrolled, namely 12 858 accounting for 11.8% of all students in the city.
  • Of all Bachelor’s programmes at research universities, 28% were exclusively offered in English and 15% in multiple languages, compared to 5% and respectively 13% of Bachelor’s at UAS. At research universities, 76% of Master’s programmes were in English only and 10% were in multiple languages, compared to 23% in English only at UAS and to 9% in multiple languages.

The Campus France report – Chiffres cles 2019 (in French) – includes also outgoing mobility data, as well as the international student mobility picture at global level based on UOE data for the academic year 2016-2017, and a European analysis by including credit mobility (via Erasmus+ student exchange data).

The figures show that:

  • In 2017-2018 there were 343 386 foreign degree-seeking students in France, i.e. 4.5% more compared to the previous academic year (and 19% increase for the past 5 years), and corresponding to 13% of all students in France.
  • The majority of these students – 46% - have nationalities of countries from the African continent, although the foreign student population in France continues to diversify.
  • The top country of origin is Morocco (with 39 855 students, i.e. 12% of all foreign students in France and an increase by 24% in the last 5 years).
  • Foreign students account for 15% of all students enrolled at universities, and for 17% and 16% of students enrolled at écoles de commerce and at engineering schools, respectively.
  • The number of foreign students at doctoral level stood at 29 500 in 2017-2018, corresponding to 42% of all PhD students in France, although France attracted 8% fewer doctoral candidates compared to 2012.
(back to newsletter)