Enrolment in Dutch Public Higher Education Declines

Enrolment in Dutch Public Higher Education Declines
Fresh Wittenborg graduates at the WUAS Winter Graduation 2023

Labour market and re-introduction of Basic Grant may be contributing factors

As the Dutch government continues to form plans to reduce international student intake at public higher education institutions, it appears that the enrolment rate of students has shrunk in recent years, with last year's intake showing a faster decline than previously expected. According to Erasmus Magazine, the Dutch Ministry of Education anticipates a decline in student enrolment to the tune of tens of thousands by 2029. Last year, the Ministry predicted a decline of 18,000 students enrolled at Dutch universities of applied sciences by 2029. However, according to their latest estimate, the number will be closer to 40,000. According to past trends, it is projected that international students will comprise over a third of the student population by 2029. However, with incoming measures to limit the intake of international students, this trend will likely decline sharply after the proposed measures are implemented. In 2022, it was found that around 40% of new students came from abroad.

One of the proposed reasons for the decline in student enrolment is the introduction of a new Basic Grant for education next year. Students may be deferring their enrolment with the expectation that they will receive compensation from the government to support their studies in the future, preferring to take a gap year. Tuition fees have also risen at Dutch institutions. Additionally, fewer Dutch students have been graduating from their courses; part of this is thought to be the result of learning disadvantages encountered during the global COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of the attractiveness of the labour market in the Netherlands. This means the students are less likely to graduate or enrol in the first place, as they are more able to secure a well-paid job without doing so. The Dutch government projects that the labour shortage will continue for a while to come.

Meanwhile, international student intake is also slowing down in the Netherlands after various yet-to-be-implemented proposals called for a cessation of international recruitment at public institutions, and possible incoming language requirements for students. While the number between 2021 and 2022 was still up by 7%, this is lower than the 10-12% annual increase seen in previous years. As of May 2023, there are 122,287 international students from nearly 170 countries at Dutch institutions.

WUP 20/06/2023
by Olivia Nelson
©WUAS Press