More students heading abroad for their degree

24 Feb 2023

In 2019, shortly before the Covid pandemic hit, 20,000 Dutch nationals were taking a degree programme abroad. That was almost double the figure for 2009. Even so, the Dutch remain well below the European average.

An increasing number of Dutch students are pursuing a full Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in another country. In 2009, 1.7 percent of students took this option and by 2019, this had risen to 2.9 percent, writes Nuffic, the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education.

Students from other countries are more travel-minded, Nuffic’s report reveals. The average for EU member states is 3.3 percent, while among the rich industrialised countries of the OECD, the figure is as high as 5.9 percent.

The Netherlands is a popular destination. Between four and five times more students come to the Netherlands to study than leave the country to pursue their studies elsewhere. Nuffic describes this as an imbalance.

98 countries

The Dutch students who did opt to study abroad are spread across 98 different countries. About half relied on a Dutch student loan to fund their education beyond the Netherlands.

The vast majority of these students with ‘mobile’ student loans went to Belgium. The UK and the US were second and third on the list for 2019, but due to Brexit, the UK’s popularity has now almost halved.

For many years, the top five was completed by Germany and France, but Nuffic’s researchers note that Turkey has now overtaken France in terms of popularity. Approximately 700 Dutch students are currently enrolled at a higher education institute in Turkey.

At Master’s level, travelling abroad to obtain a degree is more common than at Bachelor’s level. Of all internationally mobile Master’s students, 23 percent complete their entire programme abroad. Among Bachelor’s students, this figure is only 4 percent.


The vast majority of Dutch students only venture abroad for internships or exchanges. In the 2018/2019 academic year, 14,000 students took advantage of a grant from the Erasmus+ European exchange programme.

Spain was a particularly popular choice among these students, followed by the UK and Germany. The UK now no longer participates in the Erasmus+ programme. Opportunities for Dutch students to obtain a grant for a ‘non-participating’ country such as the UK are limited.


The Covid pandemic led to significantly fewer students going on exchanges. One in four graduates were able to look back on a foreign exchange experience in 2018/2019. But two cohorts later, due to all the lockdowns and restrictions, this proportion had fallen to only one in seven students.

The effects of the pandemic appear to be temporary. In November 2021, over 8,800 students were once again studying abroad on the basis of their student funding. The Education Executive Agency DUO is already in a position to provide this data; figures based on international statistics are less up-to-date.

Great that you are reading Vox! Do you want to stay up to date on all university news?

Thanks for adding the vox-app!

Leave a comment

Vox Magazine

Independent magazine of Radboud University

read the latest Vox online!

Vox Update

A direct, daily or weekly update with our articles in your mailbox!