The Netherlands as European Talent Hub

Internationalisation in higher education creating tens of thousands of new jobs in Dutch cities

Report calculates the impact per city and recommends broadening the focus on internationalisation and increasing collaboration between universities, city councils and student housing providers.

In the coming years, cities in the Netherlands with large numbers of students from universities and universities of applied sciences anticipate a strong economic stimulus as they attract more international students. The survey conducted by European think-tank The Class of 2020 shows that this development could result in an increase of € 3.3 billion in GDP and € 1.2 in extra infrastructure investments. For every student, this means an economic stimulus of € 24,000 per annum in extra wealth.

European think-tank The Class of 2020 calculated this effect on university cities using figures from NUFFIC and research agencies ABF and StudentMarketing. The report “ The Netherlands as a European Talent Hub ” appears at a time when questions are being asked about the further internationalisation of Dutch universities, while cities such as Maastricht, Eindhoven and Rotterdam benefit enormously from the internationalisation of local education and the labour market.

Not every city successful

The Class of 2020 compared internationalisation in 13 Dutch university cities and compared it to other European cities. The Netherlands currently has around 80,000 international students.Over the past few years, the percentage of international students increased everywhere, but there are some major differences. Frontrunners Maastricht (47%), Wageningen (24%), Delft (23%) and The Hague (20%) are significantly more successful in attracting talent than stragglers Leiden (7%), Utrecht (6%) and Tilburg (5%).

This shows that, with their average of around 15% internationals, Dutch cities are clearly lagging behind other European university cities. Cities such as Amsterdam (9.6% international students), Rotterdam (9.5%), Leiden (6.7%) and Utrecht (5.9%) are well behind leading cities such as London (30.6%), Vienna (27.5%), Prague (20.1%) and Berlin (18.8%).

Catch-up and growth potential

Without supervision and collaboration in and between national government, knowledge cities, universities and universities of applied sciences, further growth is expected to lead to approx. 120,000 international full-time students in the Netherlands by 2025. But the growth potential is much greater than this. This is because after Brexit the Netherlands will have the largest English-language university sector in the European Union. To compare: with a population double that of the Netherlands, Canada currently has 300,000 international students and is aiming for a figure of 450,000 by 2022.

Opportunities in Europe

The number of international students is growing worldwide, and Dutch institutions are managing to attract more and more talent inside Europe thanks to high rankings, a growing number of English-language programmes and excellent opportunities on the labour market. The report by The Class of 2020 analyses current growth and calculates the effects of a tripling of the number of international students up to 2030. This scenario is possible if cities work together with their educational institutions and are able to attract new higher education study programmes and training courses. British institutions are currently looking for European branch campuses, and more and more non-publicly financed educational organisations are expressing an interest in Dutch branches.


A broad internationalisation strategy and close collaboration with educational institutions can generate more than 30,000 extra jobs in Dutch cities and the Netherlands as a whole. That is why the report contains recommendations for student cities and the Government to take action in this area. For example, city councils must give high priority to the economic potential of their higher education sector in the future. Cities and the Government must create links to business and the labour market so that international students can keep contributing to the prosperity of the Netherlands after they graduate. To do this, they need to be offered enough good-quality living space – space in which domestic and foreign investors are also interested.

Student accommodation

More international students also means more demand for accommodation. Student housing providers will have to build thousands of extra rooms on campuses and in redevelopment locations. The report calculated the expected extra demand for accommodation.

TABLE: Growth scenario: extra jobs, extra demand for accommodation per university city and local economic stimulus when tripling the number of international students by 2030:

Source: The Class of 2020 / based upon NUFFIC, ABF & StudentMarketing.

Note: The article was originally published by The Class 2020 on 1st March 2018 and is available here:

#studenthousing #realestate