The intake figures as of 31 October show that for the first time in years, Wageningen University has fewer first-year students than in the year before.
The reason lies in the big cutbacks in scholarships for international students, says Rien Bor, who is responsible for the recruitment of students from outside Europe. He says this is affecting students from the poorest countries in particular. There have been substantial cuts in the Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP) while the Huygens Programme is being terminated. Bor: ‘The government is less willing to fund the education of students from developing countries. As a result there has been a big drop in the number of students coming here on a scholarship. We will probably see another fall next year.'
The consequence is that studying in the Netherlands is now only really feasible for students from Asia, South America and the Middle East. ‘Increasingly it is the case that while emerging economies are still unable to offer their own students a decent education, they do have enough money to send them abroad to study at a foreign university.' This is leading to a rise in the number of self-financing students at the university. They compensate in part for the loss of scholarship students.
Bor says it is the African students in particular who have fewer options as a result of the cutbacks. ‘Up to now, it was mostly students from those countries who made use of the NFP's scholarships. This was a form of development cooperation. Students from these countries now have fewer options for taking a degree in Wageningen. That will alter the international student population at the University pretty drastically.'
A total of 1,806 first years have registered in Wageningen for the coming academic year, as opposed to 1,889 last year. Erik de Munck at the Education and Research department is not worried. ‘The growth in the number of first years is stabilizing. We have grown substantially over the past few years and as a consequence we will continue to expand in the years to come, despite the smaller intake.' VHL was not yet able to provide figures for the number of first years.