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Train or plane?

Students strengthen their international competences by studying or doing an internship abroad. But student mobility is also associated with CO2 emissions. How do students in the Netherlands deal with this dilemma? How can institutions encourage students to deal with this consciously?

109 interviewees participated online in this first exploratory study by Nuffic between 13 April and 2 May 2022. One of the prominent findings confirmed that 71 percent of Dutch students traveled to their study and internship destinations by plane, whereas only 14 percent by train. The top three destinations were Spain, Sweden and Germany. Even within Europe the percentage of air travel was slightly lower at 63 percent, primarily on account of speed and other logistical reasons.

The study also showed that, although students are committed to the principle of sustainability, this does not always translate into sustainable behavior in their international experience. Indeed, 39 percent of the participants considered sustainability  as “(very) important” in their foreign studying or internship, compared to 45 percent who viewed it as “not important (at all)”. However, half of the students admitted that their study or internship abroad had contributed to their awareness of sustainability.

Nuffic concluded with some recommendations for higher education institutions to help stimulate students to form their international experience in a (more) sustainable way. Some of these include providing information earlier, offering a grant for sustainable or “green” travel, as well as encouraging employees to travel sustainably.

Read the report here.