How are higher education policy changes affecting international students? Spotlight on the Netherlands
How are higher education policy changes affecting international students? Spotlight on the Netherlands
 CIS staff photo of Claire Worland


By Claire Worland, CIS Higher Education Services



As governments worldwide re-write their internationalisation policies, how do the changes impact international students looking to study in popular destination countries? In this blog series, we talk with admission representatives at CIS member universities to get the latest regional updates straight from the source. We begin with universities in the Netherlands*.

Thanks to discussions with Amy Janssen Brennan from Rotterdam School of Management, Kim Zwitserloot from the University College Utrecht, and Sally Gascoigne from Hotelschool, The Hague, we learn how the country’s 2023 proposal is progressing and its potential impact on international students wanting to study there.


The Dutch government’s proposed changes to its internationalisation policy in 2023 were designed to:

  • help students be better prepared for the Dutch labour market
  • give universities more control over student numbers 
  • possibly cap the number of English language programmes

One year on, what has changed?

First and foremost, everything remains in the proposal stage.

The Netherlands held a general election in November 2023 and the Dutch political process can take time, so there are not yet any final agreements.

In May 2024, the law proposal was sent to the Dutch government’s second chamber.

Any possible changes will likely commence from September 2025 onwards.

However, the most important thing to know is that there are no changes for everyone starting university in the Netherlands in September 2024.

While the government have yet to pass any laws, Dutch universities have been considering their own positions.

In February 2024, Universiteiten van Nederland—an umbrella organization of government-funded member universities in the Netherlands—published a package of proposed measures, and the universities of applied science published a letter about “zelfregie” for self-regulation. As a diverse group of mostly research and applied science institutions, it’s clear that one size will not fit all. So, the organizations wrote the publications to safeguard autonomy and internal decision-making within universities, allowing each to interpret and adjust their approach accordingly.

What triggered the proposed policy changes?

Dutch higher education is currently facing three main issues:

  1. Increase in numbers
    The Netherlands has seen a significant rise in its international student population. This is due to the Dutch education philosophy, built around the idea that everyone has a right to higher education. So, most programmes are non-selective, meaning anyone meeting the minimum requirements can enrol.
  2. Housing
    Like many other countries, the Netherlands is experiencing a housing crisis, making it difficult, especially for international students, to find accommodation for the duration of their studies.
  3. Stay rate
    Currently, one-third of international students remain in the Netherlands when their studies end. The Dutch government wants to see a higher percentage of those students who remain after graduating contributing to the Dutch labour market in sectors where they could make a big difference.  

The proposed measures aim to find workable solutions to these issues that will maintain the high quality of Dutch higher education and create a sustainable strategy for internationalisation.

What are the proposed measures?

With no final agreement in place, it is difficult to say with certainty what the changes will be. More should become clear by 1 October 2024, when student applications for 2025 are open. And you can expect the following changes from September 2025:

  • Most programmes in the Netherlands are non-selective (where students meeting minimum requirements are admitted). The change means that universities will have the option to have a separate selection process for English language tracks, while Dutch language tracks may be non-selective or have their own selection process. 
  • Adding Dutch tracks to previously English-only tracks.
  • More options to study the Dutch language and culture to prepare for integration into the Dutch labour market.
  • Clear and transparent information on issues such as the housing shortage.
  • In the longer term, some (not all) programmes may no longer be available in English. Note: Many programmes will still be offered in English, particularly those educating for an international labour market or a sector where there are labour shortages, and programmes with an international educational philosophy.


‘... the Netherlands is becoming more like other countries, so more selective programmes and more options in the local language.’Kim Zwitserloot, University College Utrecht


A photo of 5 students behind a visual of a worldmap

So, are international students welcome in the Netherlands?

Absolutely! International students are welcome and very much wanted.

It can be tempting to believe sensational headlines or misinterpret what is out there. Still, international students are welcome in the Netherlands and recognised for the significant value they bring to the country.

They contribute to a stimulating study environment, not to mention the economic value.



‘We want them [international students] to come here, we want them to study, we want them to stay, build a life here and the proposed measures that are on the table right now that might change, that might ebb and flow,  they're here to maintain the high quality of education here in the Netherlands and to help students find the right path for them, both in the Dutch labour market and elsewhere.’Sally Gascoigne, The Hotelschool The Hague


Is the housing crisis really that bad for international students?

Like many countries, there is a housing shortage in the Netherlands.

But this is where it’s important to do your research.

Some Dutch universities offer student housing for the first year of study, some for the entire programme. It’s always worth checking with each university to learn more about their offers.

Can Dutch universities actively recruit?

This depends on the institution. You might notice less visibility of Dutch universities at large student recruitment fairs or less paid advertising campaigns. However, they can still be approached or attend smaller events and networking activities.


  • Institutions can showcase what they do on social media platforms.
  • As always, they can answer direct questions from counsellors and students.


We are allowed to freely interact with school counsellors, which is why we’re very happy with the CIS network’—Amy Janssen-Brennan


Tips for school counsellors with students looking to study in the Netherlands

  • Encourage your students to apply to multiple universities and not put all their eggs into one basket
  • Encourage them to start their housing search early and look beyond the large cities
  • Bookmark university websites because they will post any updates or changes there


‘Make sure you really read the information that’s available on websites because as soon as they make changes, the universities will publish that information on their website, and it could have different implications for different programmes. Don’t think that what you read on website x will apply to website y.’—Amy Janssen Brennan, Rotterdam School of Management


If your students want to study in the Netherlands, and your school has CIS membership, we encourage you to use the CIS community and contact our Dutch university members via the CIS Community portal > KnowledgeBase > Contact lists.


What's happening in your country?

Share your country updates with us and our community by emailing



* Watch the full recording of this discussion: Available to our members in the CIS Community portal > KnowledgeBase > Videos.


Related content:

Do you work at a CIS member school or university? Your institution’s CIS membership gives you access to a wide range of member-only resources via the CIS Community portal. This includes:

Tailored events & workshops:

  • Save the date for a professional learning workshop in Basel, Switzerland, on 13 November. The workshop, guided by experts in the field, will be tailored for international school-to-university transition across cultures and will foster cross-sector collaboration between university guidance counsellors, university student services, and university student recruitment.
  • Be one of hundreds of peers from across the CIS community at our annual CIS Global Forum on International Higher Education Admission & Guidance on 14–15 November. It's an excellent opportunity for peer-driven learning and networking.


The following resources and more are available to support our community:

  • Transitions-care self-audit tool: A practical tool for schools to assess the strength of their transition programmes
  • The Student Agency Pack—A group of resources designed to help school and university personnel conduct student engagement sessions around sensitive topics.
  • Key trends in international university guidance and admissions—A CIS Briefing
  • Useful questions to ask university admissions representatives—For students, to help them with their application decisions.
  • Cross-cultural transitions insights—Draws on data provided to us by 94 international students and includes their recommendations for secondary schools and universities.
  • Financial aid for students at university—The latest financial aid information from our university members.

Regional Facebook Groups:

Connect with other members and share information about events and updates via our regional Facebook groups for Africa, AmericasAsia Pacific, Europe and Middle East.



Related blogs on the CIS Perspectives blog:


How are higher education policy changes affecting international students? Spotlight on the Netherlands