Last march, internationalisation organisation Nuffic sent out a survey to international students and recent graduates. Why would they want to stay in the Netherlands or leave the country?
It’s a topical question. A sizeable majority of the new House of Representatives wants to curb the intake of international students for a variety of reasons, one of them being scepticism about economic interests: after all, most of the students leave again once they have their diploma.
After five years, one quarter of international students is still in the Netherlands. This is lucrative: according to economists, it yields the treasury an annual sum of 1.5 billion euros over time. But the more of them that end up staying, the higher the yield.
Darling, you got to let me know…
Nuffic’s survey was completed 680 times. Sometimes there’s a simple reason for staying: the internationals have found a partner here and don’t want to leave. This applies to approximately half of those who stayed, the survey shows. As one of them explains: “The last month, once I met my partner, I started thinking: ‘Okay, maybe I should find a job here, maybe I could stay.’”
Quality of life is also very important. A South-American that ended up staying gave the following example: “It’s so different when you can just go out and take a walk after dinner without being afraid, being afraid of just walking out on the street, of common delinquency, of drunk drivers.”
But you do need to be able to work and have a roof over your head. Half of those who left couldn’t find suitable jobs. This was particularly key for those who had come here from outside Europe: after a while they lose their residence permits. Lack of affordable housing also plays an important role.
For 30 percent of those who left, the language barrier was of influence: it’s more difficult to find a job if you don’t speak Dutch. Those who stayed mention the language as one of the major challenges.
Responding to the Nuffic survey, outgoing Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf points out − as he’s been known to do − the importance of international talent, “especially for our strategic growth sectors, such as technology”. He would like to keep “as much of the foreign talent as possible”, he says. “To increase the likelihood of them staying, it’s also important that students speak Dutch.”
He’s preparing a bill on internationalisation, containing measures revolving around language and admission. “We have to strive for a better balance when it comes to internationalisation in higher education”, says Dijkgraaf. “Between, on the one hand, utilising the big added value of internationalisation and, on the other hand, maintaining quality, accessibility and efficiency.”
Incidentally, internationals are feeling less welcome than before, research by a number of university media recently revealed. It’s not likely for the outcome of the elections to have assuaged this feeling.
The authors of the Nuffic report suggest carrying out research into the considerations of employers when it comes to hiring internationals, but also into the way economic, political and societal developments affect the decision of international alumni whether to stay or leave.