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The Netherlands: A new vision for smarter, more creative and entrepreneurial workforce

Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, has announced this month the government’s decision to introduce a EUR 5 million annual scholarship scheme for student mobility, both inbound and outbound. With 1 000 scholarships per year, the goal is to achieve a number of 10 000 internationally mobile students within the next decade. The Netherlands is already a popular study destination with over 90 000 international students in 2012-13. But the minister insists that, in order to achieve true internationalisation in higher education, more Dutch students should have such an international academic, cultural and life experience. With this scheme they will be able to spend a period of time abroad doing an internship or following a module as part of their study programme. 

And this is but part of the government’s broader vision of the Netherlands as a knowledge economy retaining international talent and providing world-class quality education. To that end, a number of steps are envisaged in support of strengthening the profile of Dutch higher education and promoting its unique selling points globally. Apart from funding schemes for students, the minister has encouraged bilateral cooperation with universities abroad and provision of double degrees, which is already in place in a number of Dutch universities. Transnational education is high in the list of priorities and the minister intends to identify the institutions which will be entitled to offer study programmes abroad. The main criterion will be the quality of institutions and their programmes. The right to export Dutch education will be granted only to “those whose quality is beyond all doubt’. 

In order to retain talent in the country, the government plans to facilitate administrative and visa-related issues for international graduates from Dutch universities, and to give them a three-year period after graduation to look for or create a job in the country. According to statistics, 70% of foreign students would like to stay in the country but only around 27% manage to do so. By improving this ratio and attracting more international students, the country’s economy could benefit by as much as EUR 740 million, it is said. 

In the next few years, the main guide on inbound mobility for higher education institutions and the government will be the action plan ‘Make it in the Netherlands’ launched in November 2013. Outbound mobility will be strongly encouraged through Nuffic and Neso offices abroad, and universities are asked to provide support as well.  

Internationalisation makes people smarter, more creative and more entreprising” noted Minister Bussemaker in her closing remarks of the letter of 21 July 2014 addressed to the Dutch Parliament. 

Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science