29 February 2024
International education in the Netherlands: 'The newcomers as well as teachers are really hard workers'
- International student
- International talent
A new Nuffic study shines light on the decision-making process of international students to stay in the Netherlands after graduation. What challenges do they face and what can be done to ease their transition into the Dutch labour market?
The study shows that quality of life is the most important factor for international students who stay in the Netherlands after graduating. In a survey of 680 (former) students, 84 percent of the ‘stayers’ say quality of life was either ‘important’ or ‘extremely important’ in their decision to stay. This is especially true for students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), as they cited this aspect more often than those from within the EEA.
Besides societal factors, professional and personal reasons play a role as well. 82 percent of the stayers indicated that career opportunities in the Netherlands were (extremely) important in their decision to stay. Work-life balance was mentioned by 77 percent of this group.
In addition, the general economic environment in the Netherlands (like job stability, working conditions, pension), a higher salary, and personal development also play key roles in the decision-making process. Personal factors also influence the decision. For example, having a partner in the Netherlands, was mentioned by 55 percent of stayers.
While previous research into stay rates focused on just the facts and figures, on factors for specific regions, or the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this mixed-method research paints a broader picture. It does so by interviewing and surveying students, former students, and experts from all over the Netherlands, while also including the viewpoints of international students who already left.
The question of why international students stay or leave after graduating is an important one for the Dutch government. Also, knowing the challenges international students face when making their decision, can help education institutions in formulating policy and activities as well.
“I am really happy with this research”, says Karen de Man, Senior International Relations Officer at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). “As a university, it is not our primary task to increase the stay rate. But we do, however, want to prepare our international students for the Dutch labour market as well as possible.”
Research like this motivates EUR to create policies to that end. Among other things, the university aims to improve the student’s Dutch language skills by offering discounts to Dutch language courses, and it will appoint a career officer dedicated specifically to the needs of international students.
Alumni who left after graduation often cite their inability to find suitable work (51 percent). Financing life in the Netherlands and not finding proper housing (both mentioned by 37 percent of respondents) were other important reasons to leave. The reason EUR wants to focus on Dutch language skills is because three out of ten students say language barriers made them more inclined to leave.
“Unfortunately, as a university, we cannot fix the Dutch housing market”, Karen says. “But we can support students in growing their Dutch network. A lack of social or professional support can be devastating when entering the labour market. That is where we see a role for ourselves, to boost contact between Dutch and international students, and to make them feel at home in the city using programmes like ‘Erasmus Verbindt’ (Erasmus Connects) and by collaborating with local student associations. I want them to become a ‘Rotterdammert’ just like myself. While we still have work to do, this research confirms that we are focusing on the right issues.”
*And while these results are of The Netherlands as a whole, in the Brainport region, universities with a focus on STEM have a higher stay rate.