Southern European students flock to Dutch universities

Students from the European countries hardest hit by the economic crisis are increasingly interested in studying in the more economically stable EU states, according to new data from StudyPortals, an EU-funded internet platform where students can compare study options across Europe.

The growth is most dramatic for Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, all of which have seen students' interest in studying abroad rise by more than 150 percent compared to 2011. Applications to universities in the more stable Northern and Western European countries have risen accordingly; at the VU, for example, applications from Greece, Spain and Italy have almost tripled in the last 5 years.

Southern European students' rising interest in studying abroad is correlated with their home countries' youth unemployment rates, which have climbed to as high as 52 percent in Greece this year, according to Eurostat figures. Meanwhile, the Netherlands has the third lowest youth unemployment rate in the EU-27 at 9,2 percent, behind Germany at 7,9 percent and Austria at 8,3 percent, and interest in studying abroad has dropped in these three countries compared to 2011.

Students throughout Europe are becoming more interested in studying abroad, and this has been facilitated by a dramatic increase in international study opportunities. The number of English-taught Master’s programmes offered in continental Europe has grown by nearly 1.000 percent during the past decade, from around 560 in 2002 to over 5.500 in 2012.

The Netherlands leads Europe in the number of English-taught Bachelors and Masters programmes offered at 1.104, followed by Germany with 890 and Sweden with 745. On the other hand, southern European countries lag behind, with Spain, Italy, Greece, and Portugal offering 476, 327, 126, and 111 English-taught programmes, respectively.

StudyPortals raises the question of whether these kind of developments are beneficial for the countries worst hit by the crisis, since they are attracting fewer of the best international students, but notes that, "If this results in their youth being more internationally skilled and connected, and if a majority of them would at some point return to their fatherland, this might be beneficial for the crisis countries after all."

Carly Blair


Carly Blair



Leave a comment