By Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine

The Netherlands has continued its upward trajectory in terms of international student recruitment, further establishing the country as a serious player in the tertiary marketplace.

A report from EP Nuffic – a body similar to the British Council or DAAD in Germany, tasked with promoting inbound and outbound mobility – shows a nine per cent increase in overseas students on full degrees to more than 62,000, while the total number of international students at universities and colleges, including exchange students, stands at over 90,000.

What has driven this increase? Marketing strategies have had some impact. The Dutch universities seem to be a visible presence at a lot of international events. For example, the Netherlands cleverly positioned itself to attract students from the UK when domestic tuition fees were drastically increased there, heavily playing on the proximity of the country, academic quality and the wide availability of English-medium courses. Government campaigns to attract and retain talent and more generous post-study work rights for non-EU students will have also assisted.

There was also a move towards the pathway system, with both Study Group and Cambridge Education Group (CEG) establishing a presence in the Netherlands in recent years, a fact that will have aided international recruitment. This will have also gone someway to validating the agent-based recruitment model, given the extensive networks that both organisations possess.

Indeed, the Netherlands is arguably charting a new fee model, midway between the top-end fees of the major English-speaking destinations (UK, USA, Australia) and the free/virtually free tuition public education model across many continental European destinations (France, Germany, Scandinavia). The fact that there is a fee of some substance presents the possibility of commission payments, giving the Netherlands room to manoeuvre in the agency sector.

Back in the UK, there have been further rumblings about the student visa route. A story in the Sunday Times indicated that the Home Secretary wishes to introduce tougher English language testing for non-EU students coming to the UK.

There has been persistent tinkering with language testing over recent years, but as things currently stand, universities are still permitted to verify a potential student’s language ability as they see fit; something that could change soon.

It is worth reiterating that the Sunday Times story is not government policy as yet and no draft amendment has been placed before parliament, but the fact that I have seen a raft of news stories from India already on this topic suggests a certain amount of damage has already been done in terms of perception.

Reports suggest that rifts over international student policy go to the heart of the cabinet, but the Home Secretary seems more intent than ever on zealously pursuing the illusory ‘tens of thousands’ net migration policy, and more entrenched than ever in her view that students should remain part of that figure. All of which means the Netherlands is probably eagerly anticipating a few more international students.

The secondary sector of international education is a relatively buoyant one, and that is the subject for the cover story of the October issue of StudyTravel Magazine including interviews with the main associations representing schools in the major English-speaking destinations. If you haven’t received your copy yet, here is the digital version!  

Happy reading!

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