Amsterdam ranks low among international student cities

28 February 2014, by

The Netherlands is not doing enough to attract international students. In a new report released by The Class of 2020, a higher education research foundation, Amsterdam ranks at the very bottom of a list comparing nine European student cities.

The growth rate of the international student population in the capital is lower than elsewhere in the Netherlands and Europe.

Young people visit, don’t stay

According to the report, Amsterdam is the fifth most-visited city by youth in the world, with approximately 1,2 million travellers under 30 visiting each year.

However, the vast majority of these youth are only coming as tourists. They reportedly view Amsterdam largely as a party city, rather than a place to study.

Only 6.750 Amsterdam students have international roots, a mere 6,6 per cent of the city’s student body. This rate is startling when compared to the other European capitals in the study.

London and Brussels are at the top of the list with 26 per cent of their student populations comprised of international students.

Even Madrid and Barcelona, which rank just above the Netherlands, have a ratio of international students almost double that of Amsterdam.

The Dutch capital also fares worse than other Dutch cities in this matter. Around 14 per cent of students in Delft and The Hague are foreign, while in Maastricht that number reaches 38 per cent.

International students an economic boon

Attracting more foreign students to Amsterdam and to the Netherlands as a whole, would benefit the economy.

The Class of 2020 calculates that each additional international student would translate to an economic impact of 10.370 euros per year.

A larger international population means more income for the city and the creation of countless new jobs.

However, in order to rise in the rankings, the city first needs to address some existing barriers which discourage foreign students from studying in Amsterdam.


First of all, educational institutions need to offer more bachelor programs and courses in English. City leaders should encourage more Dutch and international universities to open Amsterdam-based campuses and need to take more initiative in promoting the city as an international student destination.

Another major issue is the tight municipal control over the housing market, which has resulted in a lack of suitable rooms for students and young professionals. Deregulation of the private housing market in Amsterdam would clear the way for investors to develop appropriate and affordable student accommodation.

Can the Netherlands turn students into expats?

Not only do Dutch cities need to attract students from abroad, they need to convince these students to make long-term investments in the Netherlands. According to the Class of 2020, while 90 per cent of international students in the Netherlands consider extending their stay in the country after graduation, only 27 per cent actually do so.

A key factor in this is the number of obstacles which face international students when it comes to finding jobs. Educational institutions and companies can cooperate in addressing this matter by working to connect international students with internships, and to support start-up ventures.

Turning tourists into students and then into expats will lead to economic growth and an improved international reputation for both Amsterdam and the Netherlands as a whole.

Source: Class of 2020

Stay Informed
Latest Dutch News
New Articles on IamExpat
Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Related Links
Comments arranged by date (Total 3 comments)  
March 03 2014, 10:53AM

I think the Netherlands is not a friendly country for foreigners. You have to pay a lot for studying here (in Sweden studies are for free), master programmes in English are less interesting than those taught only in Dutch. Studying already at the University (and paying for this) you have to pay extra for learning the language (I think those courses should be included in the price)... And it is not so easy to find the job here after.

March 03 2014, 05:07PM

Plus, most governmental organizations have policies openly complicating matters for foreigners, shops in Amsterdam require fluent Dutch, Catering companies only accept you if you can read Dutch (for the safety documents), and to top it all off there's a lot of 'proud' Dutch people who will do anything to let you know you're not welcome.

March 03 2014, 11:17AM

Due to a technical issue, the two following comments have not been saved. We hereby repost them on behalf of our members:

Member comment:
I am a student in the Netherlands tight now. I love NL and dutch people and I want to be citizen; however, It seems that very hard for me. Lack of job opportunity and internship make this dream unacceptable. My university does not help me to find job and show the way.

Member comment:
I spent a year in Netherlands looking for a job after my masters. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any and I had to leave the country that I fell in love with. I think it was the saddest day of my life. If the government and educational institutes can work together then they might be able to increase the international job market and well a future for someone like me and others who would love to be a part of this growing economy.

About the Author
Ellen Keith

A Canadian with Dutch roots, Ellen has had half her heart in the Netherlands since the day she was b...

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Click here to learn more