International students more likely to drop out than Dutch students

Since 2011, one in four international university undergraduates have left the Netherlands in less than four years without graduating. It appears that they did not feel at home, the Netherlands Inspectorate of Education concludes.


Dutch universities are attracting an increasing number of students from abroad. That has advantages and disadvantages, says the Inspectorate of Education. Internationalisation can contribute to a good learning environment but also puts pressure on the quality and accessibility of the education. Accommodation is a problem too.

So it is relevant to ask whether those students are in the right place here, the inspectors feel. To get a clearer view on this, they looked at the study results of undergraduates since 2011. They have summarised the outcome in a fact sheet.

No difference

It turns out that 17 percent of the international students leave within one year. In that context there is no difference between students from within or outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Maybe they opt to study in another country, but there are no figures on that. The Inspectorate calls it ‘drop-out’.

Students change study programmes often too. 21 percent of the non-European students switch to a different study programme in the Netherlands. The figure among non-Dutch European students is 11 percent.

Only 6 percent of Dutch undergraduates stop studying within one year, although 28 percent switch to a different study programme.

© HOP. Source: Netherlands Inspectorate of Education Drop-out: from higher education in the Netherlands.

So roughly a third of the students do not choose the right study programme straight away, the Inspectorate says. That is the case slightly more often for non-European students than for non-Dutch European students. Dutch students are in between.

International students drop out more often than Dutch students in later years of the programme as well. After four years, a quarter have quit Dutch higher education without a Bachelor’s degree, as against 9 percent of Dutch students.

In contrast, the remaining international students are slightly more likely to graduate. That is the case in particular for non-Dutch European students and they are also more likely to graduate in their original discipline.

© HOP. Source: Netherlands Inspectorate of Education Drop-out: from higher education in the Netherlands.

The inspectors are unable to say why so many international students leave the Netherlands prematurely: ‘This may have something to do with the institution or study programme, but it is equally possible that they simply don’t enjoy studying abroad.’

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