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Foreign students in Amsterdam

Academic year 2023-2024: 45% of first-year UvA students come from abroad (“internationals”)


Amsterdam's two universities ensure an increasing influx of foreign students to Amsterdam.


Since 2016, the number of foreign students in the city has more than tripled: from 6,016 in 2016-2017 to 20,971 in the 2022-2023 academic year.

In 2022-2023, 73,932 students were registered at Amsterdam universities. Of these, 20,971 come from abroad.

In 2023-2024, the total number of students at Amsterdam universities will have remained approximately the same. The influx of foreign students has fallen at the VU and has increased at the UvA.

Perhaps there is a turning point here.


In 2022-2023, the number of foreign students in the Netherlands increased by 6.3% compared to the previous year, to around 122,300 students. More than 75% of this was from the EU. The growth from the EU countries was greater than from outside the EU (CBS, 2023).

For the Amsterdam universities this was exactly the opposite; there the growth was greatest from countries outside the EU (see below).

The universities asked the government for “management instruments” to make the intake manageable; there is a lot of management now.


From the EU (EEA) and from outside the EU (EEA)


EEA stands for European Economic Area; consists of the countries of the European Union plus Norway and Iceland.

The terms EU and EEA will be used synonymously in this study.

Students from EEA countries have access to Dutch higher education under the same conditions as students from the Netherlands.

The influx of bachelor students with a foreign previous education, especially from the EEA , has increased nationally by 29 percent (2021-2022 compared to 2020-2021). This seems to be a direct consequence of the Brexit treaty; As a result, EEA students could no longer easily enroll in British universities. 

Students from outside the EEA pay a significantly higher tuition fee, several thousand euros more.

Students from outside the EEA need permission from the IND.

Partly as a result of this, the number of British students in the Netherlands decreased by almost 25% in the 2021-2022 academic year – the first academic year after the Brexit treaty. (Ad Valvas April 13, 2022)


Top 5 by largest numbers of foreign students in the Netherlands 2021-2022

  1. Germany     Has been like this for years; Maastricht is almost a German university

  2. Italy

  3. Romania    Is brand new; huge increase in Romanian students

  4. China

  5. Belgium

(from Ad Valvas Apr 13, 2022)


The main nationalities of non-EU-EEA students in the Netherlands


  1. China

  2. India

  3. United States

  4. Turkey

  5. Indonesia

  6. Great Britain (600 applications)

(From ZERO September 20, 2021) 


Short, shorter, shortest

The emergence of very short courses leads to more very short stays of students in Amsterdam. For example, bachelors of a semester and masters of six months are offered.


Education in English

The Dutch universities have gradually switched to teaching in English.

Bachelor's programs are still mainly in Dutch (65%). Master's programs mainly in English (74%). (Factsheet from

At the UvA, 80% of master's education is taught in English. (Folia 4 Dec 2019)

The argument for English-language education is that this would improve the quality of education, improve the connection with the international scientific debate and attract foreign students. But because the quality of English, both for teachers and students, is often low, the quality of English-language education is said to be low, according to various sources. English has been the official language at the universities of Twente and Eindhoven for several years now. (from: DUB 18-12-2019)

Many foreign students come to the Netherlands to learn good English here.



High contribution students from outside the EU

Universities do not receive a government grant for non-EU students, so they have to pass on the high costs to the student. For non-EU students, universities are allowed to set the rate themselves. In this way, they can become a revenue model for the institution and provide an incentive to attract as many non-EU students as possible. Both the UvA and the VU deny that this is the case. (Parool 23-12-2015)

Despite the high fees charged for non-EU students, these (especially for "expensive" studies) will never cover costs. In that case, the government still pays a considerable part, for example in the case of medicine.

Single rates for non-EEA students

VU - Bachelor's degree in law: 5500 euros/year

UvA bachelor's degree in law: 9,000 euros/year 2022-2023: 9,130 euros/year

VU – master of medicine: 15,000 euros/year

UvA - master of medicine 20,600 euros/year 2022-2023: 25,080 euros/year

(Source: Parool 23-12-2015 and overview UvA institutional tuition fees for non-EEA students 2022)

University of Amsterdam (UvA)

The UvA has the largest number of foreign students of all universities in the Netherlands: 15,064 in 2023-2024.

This means that the share of foreign students at the UvA is 35%.


In the 2022-2023 academic year, approximately 14,338 international bachelor's and master's students studied, now in 2023-2024 there will be 15,064: an increase of 5 percent. The growth between the academic years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 was about 20%, which shows that growth is decreasing. This decrease can be attributed to the number of foreign students starting a bachelor's program in 2023-2024; there has been a decrease of 3.2% in the number of bachelor's students. The slight increase in foreign students that can be seen is thanks to foreign master's students. Compared to the previous year 2022-2023, there is a growth of 6.6% foreign master students in the year 2023-2024, writes Jesper Roele in Het Parool (February 7th, 2024).


Total number of UvA studenten students

2016-2017      31,019

2017-2018      31,588

2018-2019      34,067

2019-2020      35,387

2020-2021      38,940

2021-2022      41,206

2022-2023      42,171

2023-2024      43,039

Conclusion: growth of 39% in total number of students between 2016 and 2024


Share of foreign students

2016-2017      14%

2017-2018      17

2018-2019      21

2019-2020      25

2020-2021      28

2021-2022      31

2022-2023      34

2023-2024      35

Conclusion: more than doubled in 7 years, but growth is declining sharply









Distribution of the share of foreign students by EU (EEA) and outside the EU (EEA)

                                EU-EEA               outside EU-EEA

2016-2017                  10%                            4%      

2017-2018                  12                               5

2018-2019                  15                               6

2019-2020                  17                               8                                 

2020-2021                  18                              10

2021-2022                  20                              11

2022-2023                  22                              12

2023-2024                  22                              13

Conclusion: Growth from outside the EU is considerably higher than from the EU (three times as much versus twice as much).

This is remarkable, because it is considerably more difficult (residence permit, etc.) and more expensive for non-EU students to study at the UvA.

(Figures from: UvA Actbook)


Free University (VU)

Total number of students VU

2016-2017      22,312

2017-2018      22,773

2018-2019      24,200

2019-2020      26,593

2020-2021      30,008

2021-2022      31,700

2022-2023      31,761

2023-2024      31,810

Conclusion: growth of 43% in total number of students, between 2016 and 2024. Growth now appears to have stagnated.


Share of foreign students

2016-2017      7.5 %

2017-2018      9.4

2018-2019      11.7

2019-2020      14.1

2020-2021      13.9

2021-2022      17.3

2022-2023      18,6

Conclusion: more than doubled in 6 years










Growth in the number of foreign students 2016 – 2023: 253%


As at the UvA, the greatest growth is in the proportion of non-European students.


The influx of bachelor's students with a foreign previous education, especially from the EEA , has increased considerably, by 37 percent. Nationally that is 29 percent.

This seems to be a direct result of Brexit, which means that EEA students no longer enroll at British universities. 

VU Master's degree programs are also popular with international students, who mainly come from outside the EEA . The number of enrollments of students with a foreign previous education is growing by 24 percent. The number of students with a Dutch previous education remains virtually the same, with an increase of 1 percent (Ad Valvas, November 4, 2021).


In the 2023-2024 academic year, the number of new bachelor's students will decrease sharply, by 20.9% compared to the previous academic year. This is a huge change with the 2021-2022 academic year. According to the VU, this significant decrease is due, among other things, to a limitation on the number of students studying Computer Science, by imposing a numerus fixus on this study. The number of foreign master's students did grow this year, by 5.7%, writes Jesper Roele in Het Parool (February 7, 2024).



Higher Professional Education


Higher Professional Education in Amsterdam consists of:

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (46,928 students in 2022-2023),

Hogeschool InHolland Diemen (moves soon to Zeeburgereiland  - 3,513 students in 2021-2022)

School of the Arts (3,329 students in 2022-2023)

Rietveld Academy (with the Sandberg as post-academic programme - 824 students in 2022-2023)

Together a little less than 55,000 students.


The AUAS and InHolland have relatively few foreign students. Less than 4% on the AUAS (AUAS 2022 3.9%, 2020 3.6%) at InHolland Diemen, it will not be much higher.


Only the creative vocational courses, largely bundled in the Amsterdam School of the Arts, have many foreign students:

  • Academy of Architecture: 270 students, of which 72 foreign = 27% : 40 from the EEA and 32 from outside the EEA.

  • Academy of Theater and Dance: 592 students, of which 178 = 30% from abroad: 114 from the EEA and 64 from outside the EEA

  • Dutch Film Academy: 404 students, of which 16 foreign students = 4%

  • Conservatory: 1065 students, of which 645 = 61% abroad. 481 from EEA, 164 from outside the EEA.

  • Reinwardt Academy and Breitner Academy: very low


In 2020, the Amsterdam School of the Arts had 936 students from abroad (29%), of which 664 from the EEA and 272 from outside the EEA


(Source: annual report AHK Amsterdam University of the Arts 2020 from their website)



Consequences of the large influx of (foreign) students


The enormous growth in the number of students, especially in the number and proportion of foreign students, has major consequences for the university and the city:


For the university

  • No more space, literally, physically. Lecture halls are packed, aisles are clogged, the canteen is full.

  • Facilities insufficient for these numbers: libraries are full, office hours are running out, long waiting times for conversations with a teacher, etc.

  • Dutch students are being supplanted by foreign students

  • Workload of employees too high

  • The quality of education and research is under pressure


For the Amsterdam housing market

  • Major shortage of student housing;

  • Expensive solutions for students with wealthy parents, such as student housing for 900 - 1200 euros/month and more (Student Hotel, Our Domain, etc.) and parents who buy housing for their student child.

  • This leads to crowding out the housing market and upward pressure on rental and purchase prices.

  • Abuse by landlords of rooms and collective housing by charging very high rents and failing to maintain homes

  • Rooming and nuisance of homes with (too many) students


Economic consequences for Amsterdam

  • Wide range of students who want to work part-time

  • Many start ups by students after their education

  • Large supply on the labor market of highly qualified young people

  • Great potential on the labor market of internationally oriented young people


Cultural Consequences for Amsterdam

  • Greater variety of cultures

  • Stimulation of Anglophone cultural expressions

  • Impulse for international youth culture

  • Repression of Dutch, local and more traditional culture

  • More crossover of different cultures


Social consequences for Amsterdam

Both the short-term stay and not speaking the Dutch language have major social consequences:

  • Little or no social contacts outside their own student group.

  • Little or no social responsibilities and agreements.

  • One continues to live in one's own little bubble; does not become part of or contribute to the urban social fabric.

  • People generally won't develop 'urban citizenship', so don't know about local politics, don't know what civil rights are, how the city is run, what the traditions are, how you can exert influence.

  • One does not 'root'






According to both the universities and the Municipality of Amsterdam, measures are needed to regulate the influx of foreign students.


In 2018, the Municipality of Amsterdam, through the then alderman Ivens, asked the universities to limit the influx of students.

At the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, the universities themselves sounded the alarm and urged the Minister of Education to take measures.

It is almost impossible for universities to control the influx of students from EU-EEA countries due to agreements in the EU-EEA context.

Refusing students is not allowed (AT5 November 4, 2021).

At the start of the 2022-2023 academic year, the UvA and the VU implemented a 'deterrent policy' to ensure that foreign students are less likely to come to the Netherlands. For example, the Amsterdam universities warned international students not to come if they do not have a room a month before the start of the academic year (Parool, March 15, 2023). Many foreign students felt cheated because they had registered as a result of a UvA recruitment campaign (source: own interviews). In November 2022, Minister Dijkgraaf promised the House of Representatives to limit the influx of international students. He wants to combat the Anglicisation of Bachelor's programs and prevent the displacement of Dutch students. The minister said that with the start of the 2025-2026 academic year, a maximum of one third of the subjects in bachelor's programs may be taught in a language other than Dutch (NRC, June 21 2023). In the meantime, the Bachelor's program in Human Geography & Planning will be taught in English from 2023-2024.


Measures are needed


UvA board chair Geert ten Dam reacted with shock: “If the ministry does not intervene, we will have to think about unconventional measures”, she said in Het Parool (June 15, 2022).

Since 2022, Amsterdam universities have no longer actively recruited abroad, writes Khaddari in Het Parool (September 2, 2023). There is an exception for sectors in which there are major shortages in the labor market. The UvA also highlights the room shortage in Amsterdam, thereby making foreign students aware, which may deter some.


In June 2023, Minister Dijkgraaf presented an amended bill 'Internationalization in Balance'. The aim is to restrict the offering of English-language bachelor's programs throughout the country. Because this cannot be introduced before the 2025-2026 academic year, the VVD submitted an amendment to the existing 'Higher Education Act' in January 2024. If this is adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives before summer 2024, this could soon come into force. Universities then have the option to impose a numerus fixus on English-language studies. ​


In the report 'State Commission Demographic Developments 2050', which was published in mid-January 2024, student migration is mentioned several times. She advises increasing the 'stay chance' of international students who come to the Netherlands. So that they can contribute to the Dutch economy. Now more than 80% of them have left within 10 years, writes Retera in Het NRC (January 18, 2024).

The universities and higher professional education in the Netherlands are taking joint action to reduce the influx of international students. The association of Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) wants to take this seriously. No new English-taught bachelor's degrees are being developed for the time being and research is being conducted into whether English-taught courses can be transferred to Dutch. Universities have agreed that major bachelor's programs must also be offered in Dutch in addition to English. The Association of Universities of Applied Sciences will also soon come up with a plan to limit the influx from abroad (Het Parool, February 9, 2024).


The following measures were discussed last year:

  • Offer less education in English:
    Now, February 9, 2024, there are clear plans for this through UNL and the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences.

  • Charge much higher amounts to students from outside the EU-EEA

  • Stop recruiting students abroad, especially from outside the EU:
    Amsterdam universities have no longer actively recruited abroad since 2022, and the UvA has a 'deterrent policy' in which it makes foreign students aware of the room shortage in Amsterdam.

  • Numerus fixus on English-language studies (permission needed from the minister?):
    A bill and amendment have been submitted, if this is adopted, universities can impose a numerus fixus on courses from the academic year 2025-2026. Universities have taken measures themselves, they are not waiting for the law. The VU has introduced a numerus fixus on the Computer Science program and the UvA on the Bachelor's program in Psychology.

  • Stop pre-training for foreign students.

OnCampus now offers preliminary training for 'undergraduate' students for UvA and HvA, so that they can still follow the UvA-HvA training. This preliminary training is followed by many Chinese potential students and costs at least 18,000 euros. OnCampus is affiliated with the Economics Faculty of the UvA; the IND is 'not amused' how OnCampus does not register EU-EEA students (source: Folia 23 September 2020)





Jaap Draaisma, Amsterdam, June 17, 2022

Update: February 13, 2024

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