Nieuws - 17 mei 2012

Millions of euros coming from foreign students

Foreign students could be contributing as much as 740 million euros each year to government revenue in the Netherlands. This says the Central Planning Bureau (CBP) in response to state secretary Zijlstra who wants to know about the costs and benefits of having foreign students.

While a fairly large number of foreigners study here, fewer Dutch people go overseas to study. This imbalance caused some commotion in the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament, especially when there were study programmes being offered near the border which were apparently set up entirely for German students and conducted in German. Arguments arose as to why the Netherlands had to pay for the education of foreign students in times of major budget cutbacks. What are the benefits? To find out, state secretary Zijlstra asked CPB to look into this matter. The thinking behind is: foreign students are not just an expense item. Good foreigners can stimulate Dutch fellow students and improve the education system. If they stay on to work here, foreigners also pay taxes. The CPB has taken up this line of reasoning. Although it cannot come up with exact figures, it is very unlikely that the Netherlands is making losses in providing education for foreigners. Extra costs may be incurred during the study period but these are being made up for by the benefits.
Positive effect
It is not entirely clear how many students remain here after getting their degree. But even if this group constitutes a small portion, say 2.5 percent of all foreign graduates, their presence still has a positive effect. If nineteen percent of them stay on for a couple of years, they could add 740 million euros to government revenue. In addition, these students get to know the Netherlands, and the Dutch get to develop intercultural skills from contacts with foreign students. This is good for business with the rest of the world, argues the CPB.
No more German programmes
To benefit more from having foreign students, demissionary state secretary Zijlstra wants to give more attention to the quality of international students, he writes in a cover letter to the Lower House. He also wants to increase the chances of retaining the students after graduation, while Dutch students should learn more about doing business with Germany. A stop will be put to educational programmes conducted entirely in German for German students. These should be cut down or changed, he writes to the Lower House.
In any case, the presence of foreign students does not in itself lead to improvements in education. The institutes have to take steps to give students and lecturers a good command of English and perhaps train them also in intercultural skills, adds the CPB.