A study by ADC Denmark revealed that international students are crucial for a robust economy. This highlights the opportunity for the Netherlands to adopt a more data-driven approach to deciding what role these students should play in the Dutch education system and economy.
Financing International Students: A Debated Topic
Following calls from universities in major cities, Dutch MPs are debating the potential to limit international student enrolment. The debate centres around the idea of targeted internationalism, with some MP’s such as Pieter Omtzigt supporting a limit on international student enrolment and raising the question: “Is financing international students a priority?”
Similar debates on international student enrolment have already taken place in countries like Denmark, presenting a valuable learning opportunity for Dutch politicians. By examining the outcomes and impacts in these countries, Dutch leaders can make informed decisions about the role international students should play in their own education system and economy.
International Students’ Vital Role in Strong Economies
A study by ADC Denmark (formerly DAMVAD Analytics) revealed that international students are crucial for a robust economy. Despite some receiving state grants (SU) and some returning home after completing their education, each graduate contributes an average of over DKK 2 million (250k EUR) over a 13-year period.
From 2007 to 2020, international graduates contributed more than DKK 26.7 billion (3.6 billion EUR) to the Danish economy. The contribution of graduates from technical and scientific fields alone is over DKK 11.7 billion (1.6 billion EUR) during the same 13-year period. International students not only enhance the education system, but they also play a vital role in the labour market, with many remaining in the country after graduation. Despite this, in Denmark, educational grants for international students are often seen as a burden rather than an investment, even in fields like engineering and IT.
Addressing Labour Shortages Through International Students
The shortage of highly educated labour, especially in technical sciences, is a critical and long-standing issue for the Danish society. International graduates who settle and work in Denmark are an integral part of the solution to this problem.
Recent discussions have centered on the expenses associated with state grants for international students. However, the focus should shift to the benefits that these students bring to the country. In 2021, the government took the step to limit the number of foreign English-language education places to reduce expenses, but this approach overlooks the broader impact that international graduates have on the Danish economy and society.
Our study revealed a shortage in the fields of engineering, technology, and IT. By 2030, the country will face a shortfall of 13,000 graduates in these fields. With limited enrolment in STEM programs, it’s unrealistic to expect a solution to this problem. However, international students, particularly those in STEM programs, can play a crucial role in mitigating this deficit and propelling Denmark to the forefront of digital economies.
A Data-Driven Approach in the Netherlands
Our research in Denmark highlights the opportunity for the Netherlands to adopt a more evidence-based approach to the political debate on international students. By leveraging data science, we can gain a better understanding of the long-term benefits and potential risks of investing in international students to develop future-proof solutions. A similar study in the Netherlands would provide valuable insights for policymakers to make informed decisions.
The economic impact of international students is one key area to examine. Furthermore, it is important to consider the effect on the labour market. Given the increasing collaboration and interdependence between European countries, such a study should take these interdependencies into account to maximise the results of investing in a (European) labour force with the right competences and skills for future challenges and opportunities. Policymakers can then use these findings to make informed decisions on international student recruitment and retention.