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Sunday 21 December  
Number of foreign students in Holland up 40 percent
Belinda van Steijn's picture
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Are foreign students depriving the Dutch of an education?

Published on : 1 October 2011 - 7:58am | By Belinda van Steijn (Photo: ANP)
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Foreign students in the Netherlands: are they expensive and unfair competition, or sorely needed? As more and more foreigners register at Dutch universities and colleges of higher education, the Dutch government is looking into the costs versus the benefits of students coming here from abroad.

37-year-old Li from China has finished his degree studies in medicine and has started working on a PhD. “I wanted to study medicine in China, but an acquaintance suggested the Netherlands. It’s difficult to be accepted for a course in China, so it was by accident that I came to the Netherlands. My diplomas weren’t considered completely valid, but in the end I won a place in the lottery for medicine.”

In the Netherlands, would-be students have to draw lots to decide who can study over-subscribed subjects, such as medicine and dentistry.

The quality of the education on offer, its international character, specialised master’s degrees and relatively low college fees make the Netherlands an interesting option for foreigners. That’s all well and good, but don’t students from abroad push up Dutch prices, and push out Dutch students from popular courses?

Politicians concerned
Two political parties – the Socialist Party (SP) and the Freedom Party (PVV) - have started to voice these concerns in the public arena, especially since the latest figures show a 40 percent increase in the number of foreign students in the Netherlands over the past year.

At the moment, some 65,000 foreigners are studying in the Netherlands, compared to 240,000 Dutch. SP political scientist Jasper van Dijk says it’s time to take action.

“Student exchanges and higher level education go hand in hand, but the ratios should stay in proportion. We have to make sure we don’t push out Dutch students because, before you know it, you’ll have a shortage of doctors or teachers simply because they weren’t able to secure a place at Dutch colleges.”

Li came to study in Amsterdam in 2001. He financed all his studies himself with backing from his family.

“The first year was very stressful for me. The lectures were in Dutch. I couldn’t make head nor tail of the material because I didn’t speak the language yet. I had to read up on the material in English-language textbooks. I failed the first year, but did all right in the repeats.”


Foreign students needed
Neither Dutch universities nor the student Union LSVB see any need to reduce the number of foreign students. In fact, they say the Netherlands needs them. They’re important for economic development and international networking.

Li doesn’t think Dutch students have to worry about being driven out of educational institutions. “Most foreigners choose an English-language course which you don’t need to draw lots for.”

Favour Dutch students with lower grades
Dutch students aren’t complaining yet either, although that could change. Foreign students with good marks sometimes get a place in medicine and psychology courses, while Dutch students with lower marks are rejected.

LSVB chairperson Pascal ten Have thinks the lottery system might have to be scrapped altogether to avoid foreigners getting precedence over Dutch students with lower grades.

“Also, a lot of students in Amsterdam complain about the accommodation shortage while foreigners seem to be able to find a room easily. But that’s got more to do with a general housing problem than with foreign students.”

Expensive foreign students?
The PVV and the SP are also concerned about the additional costs of foreign students. In proportion, fewer Dutch students study abroad, so shouldn’t that drive costs up? The schools say that foreign students coming in and Dutch students going out are pretty much in balance. But that assertion can’t be backed up by hard statistics, as Dutch students who study abroad don’t have to inform the authorities.

Students from an EU member state pay the same - government-regulated - tuition as Dutch students. But the costs for students from outside the EU are significantly higher.

For Li, it wasn’t the course content but his contact with other Dutch students which was the most difficult for him. “I wanted to borrow notes, but they wouldn’t do that.” That’s all behind me now, he exclaims - in reasonable Dutch - while he selects paint in a DIY store.

On-going discussion
But, despite reassuring responses from the universities and students, politicians remain unconvinced. Jasper van Dijk says other European countries, like Denmark, Germany and Austria, are facing similar problems and the cost factor is an on-going discussion.

In November, Dutch MPs will have more facts and figures to get their teeth into and the debate will really get rolling.



ralphhardie 3 September 2014 - 1:07pm / United States

Usually, the entrance exams in conducted in every countries basically cuts most number of students. Hence, for the sake to complete their education it becomes important for them to take admission in any of such foreign universities. However, my son is even preparing for his SAT exam. Check details on clearing entrance you can check

sidra habib 26 April 2014 - 11:00pm / canada

looking like they are doing this Denture Clinic in Newmarket

Anonymous 21 September 2012 - 1:31pm / Tunisia

uhm.... how can i say this?? i would love to move to Holland ans finnish my education there not only just studying but the main reason that my love lives there , yes that's weird anyway HORAY to dutch eductaion

BobSmiley 29 March 2012 - 4:00am / UK

Is there such a problem in the dental faculty? I personally feel that foreign students are inevitable in this globalizing world, and this problem can be seen in almost every country, even in the Asian countries.

Bob -

Kristine Maitland 15 November 2011 - 9:41pm / Canada

@Eric. Point taken (laughing at herself).

Anonymous 5 October 2011 - 8:57pm

As written in the article itself, most of the time the marks of Dutch people are lower than their foreign mates...well...that can be solved studying, not eliminating the competitors!
I personally studied in another country and I came in NL to' fullfill a vacancy that was open since one year, because they could find no professional for it...

Anonymous 5 October 2011 - 8:53pm / Países Bajos

As a foreign student I think the Dutch government should take more into account those people who come here 'to study' and after a year, or six months and then decided to quit, there is the problem.
Those are the people who stay ilegally or cause the tax payers to see their money go to support other people than their own, it is pretty simple. An strong admission system can assure true quality.
At least in my case, I wanna finish my studies and go back to my country to have my own company. However if I would stay then I would pay the taxes and work for the country I'm residing and gave my education.
But bear in mind, that the universities get money from all the students who successfully complete their education Dutch or foreigner, that is where the discussion should be intended to, not towards keeping limits. Stronger rules assure the best for both parties involved

PeterNY 3 October 2011 - 8:22pm / USA

There is no need for international students. They only serve the egos of boards of directors of universities and colleges. It costs hundreds of millions in tax payers euros and with current record high unemployment there is no need for even more unemployed people competing for ever fewer jobs.

user avatar
Awesome Ted 4 October 2011 - 3:48pm

Due to the fact that they pay 5 times what the native Dutch do, they're actually a source of revenue for universities. This can reduce the draw from taxpayers. These students come here with a student visa, not a work or permanent residence permit, and do not contribute to unemployment numbers.

Anonymous 2 October 2011 - 5:30am

I hope they'll all find a steady, remunerative job after all that studying and paying up.

Eric D. 1 October 2011 - 8:24pm / Canada

I'm a Canadian student studying in the Netherlands and I would love it if they made foreign students pay tuition that is 3 x higher than what Dutch students pay, because it is currently about 5 x higher.

Anonymous 3 October 2011 - 3:26am / Netherlands

You are so right! they should stop whining, its already friggin' expensive.... maybe make it interesting for foreigners to stay in the Netherlands after completing their studies instead of kicking them out of the country?

Kristine Maitland 1 October 2011 - 4:36pm / Canada

The Dutch can do what we do in Canada. You make international/foreign students pay 3 times as much to attend school.

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