Impact of COVID-19 and Brexit on Student Numbers Still Unclear: Dutch Ministry of Education

Impact of COVID-19 and Brexit on Student Numbers Still Unclear: Dutch Ministry of Education

Number of International Students in Netherlands Expected to Rise by 33% in Next 6 Years

The number of international students in the Netherlands is expected to rise about 33% in the next 6 years, according to estimates published this week by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. In general, the number of students expected to study in higher education is much higher than what the government anticipated - especially at research universities. The estimates serves as a foundation to determine the education budget.

According to the ministerial report, it is still unclear what impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on education in the coming years, including the effect of travel restrictions over the short term on students' decision to study abroad. The same uncertainty applies to Brexit with one of the questions being whether more students from the European Economic Area (EEA) will choose to study in the Netherlands instead of the UK and whether fewer British students will study in Europe now that they have to pay higher fees.

The estimation is a complex exercise which factors in things like the number of births - which has declined during the crisis - migration, economic growth and unemployment.  

At universities of applied sciences, international student numbers are expected to rise from 36,700 students in 2020 to 42,300 students in 2027 - an increase of about 15%. At research universities, the expected increase is even higher from 72,400 to 103,600 by 2027 - a rise of about 43%, which is 15% higher than initially expected.

Universities of applied sciences

Both students from Europe as well as non-EU students are expected to increase in numbers in the coming years. In 2020, there were 24,800 EEA-students doing a bachelor's (or associate degree) at a university of applied sciences - 3% higher than was expected. There were 8,700 non-EEA students - only 0.6% less than what was expected.  At master's level, there were 2,100 EEA-students – 11.7% more than what was expected, while non-EEA student numbers were 1.2% less than expected.

Research universities

In 2020, 32,300 students from the EEA did a bachelor's degree at Dutch research universities – 8.2% more than what was expected, leading to the ministry having to adjust its predictions for the next 6 years. Among students from outside the EEA there was even an increase of 12.1%. About 20,600 EEA students followed a master's programme at a research university over the same period – 6.9% more than what was expected. At the same time 9,700 non-EEA-students did a master's at a research university - 4.3% less than anticipated.

WUP 26/4/2021
by Anesca Smith
©WUAS Press