Number of international students increases

18 Dec 2017 | Genoveva Geppaart

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According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), international students in the Netherlands are a large group of potential knowledge migrants. They are enrolled in research university and universities of applied science all over the country. However, there are clear regional differences and there are also differences in countries of origin, fields of study and bachelor vs. master programmes.


Increase of international students

In the academic year 2016-2017 a total of 81,392 international students studied in Dutch higher education. This is the highest number of international students in the Netherlands ever.  There were 164 different nationalities. The growth was strongest in research universities from 8.2 % in 2008-2009 to 18% in 2016-2017. Master’s programmes are increasingly popular with international students. In 2016-2017 about 27.9% of all new master’s students came from outside the Netherlands.


Countries of origin

About 75% of all international students come from EU/EEA countries, with a focus on Eastern and Southern European countries.

In general, students from non-EU /EEA countries are more likely to pursue a master’s degree and in the areas of science, agriculture or engineering.

Graduates from this field often find a job in the Netherlands. The stay-rate in this group is highest.

Some interesting findings regarding country of origin:

  • Germany is represented by the largest number of students. German students often enrol  in bachelor’s studies in the border region (Eastern Netherlands).
  • Belgian students are concentrated near the Southern border.
  • Students from Southern Europe study mainly at research universities in Maastricht, Rotterdam and Delft.
  • Students from Eastern Europe study mainly at research universities in Groningen, Maastricht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.


Regional differences

In the academic year 2016-2017 Maastricht University had the highest number of international students: about half the number of students. The Hague, Delft and Wageningen  each had about 20% international students and Amsterdam only 10%.

There are also regional differences where international graduates who stayed in the Netherlands live (5-7 years after graduation) :

Amsterdam area : 25%

Rotterdam area: 11-12%

The Hague area : 10-11%

Utrecht: 8-9%


These figures show that the bigger cities attract graduates from all over the Netherlands.


More detailed information is available in two reports from Nuffic :

You can also find detailed figures on

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