Pieter Duisenberg, the head of Universities of Netherlands (UNL), has said that the country is going to reduce the number of international students it accepts coming from outside of the European Union.

The move comes as figures were released which show that the number of students enrolled for the first time in Dutch higher education institutions was 340,360 in 2021 – up 4% from 2020. The number of international students overall rose 14.2% to 80,000.

Duisenberg commented that the rise in international students follows worldwide trends of wanting high quality, but inexpensive education. In line with this, Duisenberg said that curbing the international intake would keep the quality of education high and enable staff to better manage workloads. 

Robbert Dijkgraaf, the Netherland’s Minister of Education said he would take the issue to Parliament to ensure that the number of students was manageable. The expectation is that the number of international students will rise over the next several years, putting pressure on Dutch institutions.

Whilst other EU states want to encourage internationals to come in, the Netherlands is putting a resounding stamp on the issue: less is better. 

Plans to realise the downsizing include having a fixed number of students in the English-language track of any given program, maintaining a maximum number of students from outside Europe per program, and permission to set emergency caps if registration numbers become too high.

The end result may provide a more competitive educational landscape for international students, which will come at a cost from the reduced number of students paying international fees. However, the plans also serve to preserve the Dutch identity of the universities by limiting the level of English used to teach and by redistributing resources to non-international students.

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