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New proposed framework for international student enrolment in the Netherlands

The Dutch education policymakers and stakeholders have been discussing lately various options aiming to better regulate international student enrolment in Dutch higher education. As part of this process , Robbert Dijkgraaf, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science issued a letter (in Dutch, press release in English here) to the House of Representatives, outlining several options that will be available to Dutch higher education institutions to take the best advantage of internationalisation, while being able to address various bottlenecks.

The Minister’s letter emphasised the multiple benefits and importance of internationalisation on students and higher education institutions, as well as the knowledge economy and the society at large. It also proposed taking a balanced and integral approach to managing systemic issues related to internationalisation, which was welcomed by Nuffic in their recent statement (in Dutch).

The letter outlines several concrete steps “to improve the management of international students coming to the Netherlands” based on a dedicated legislative action and agreements concluded between the government and the institutions concerned. More specifically, it introduces possible use of caps on the number of non-EU/EEA students enrolled in different study programmes or study tracks, that can be applied in case of oversubscription and is intended to help coping with any large, unexpected rise of students.

The proposed approach allows for differentiation between different study fields, particularly those that have importance for economic growth and labour market, as well as different types of higher education institutions and their specific geographic (e.g., cross-border) situations. The objective is also to steer international students more actively towards the Dutch labour market, while improving their Dutch language skills. The Minister’s plan is to seal agreements on targeted recruitment with Dutch higher education institutions before next summer.

While the letter has provided some strategic orientations for the Dutch higher education sector, many of these intended changes still need to be legislated or agreed upon. Further details of the planned measures are expected to be announced in June 2023, as part of the Minister’s long-term vision for the future of secondary vocational education, higher education, and research in the Netherlands. This vision will address the topic of internationalisation in relation to fundamental questions about the enrolment of students, further development of the Research Universities/Universities of Applied Sciences binary system, the link with the labour market, funding of the higher education system, legislation, and governmental oversight.

ACA’s member Nuffic is a key player supporting sustainable internationalisation across the entire Dutch education sector. Nuffic also plays an active role in the implementation of the National Student Housing Action Plan 2022-2030. Nuffic is currently working on an action plan to remove obstacles to outgoing mobility and achieve more balanced mobility. Furthermore, Nuffic is a knowledge centre doing research on relevant themes, such as obtaining international competences, different types of mobility and the chance of staying, to contribute to policy development.