The ‘eternal growth’ of Radboud University has passed, once again there are (somewhat) fewer students

13 Nov 2023 ,

The number of students at Radboud University is slightly decreasing, just like last year. The exception is the Faculty of Social Sciences: the Maria Montessori building is still acting as a magnet for students. Nationally, there are concerns about the decline in international intake.

This academic year, a total of 24,402 students are enrolled at the Nijmegen University. That’s 231 students less than last year, according to figures from October, in which Dutch universities annually disclose their enrollment numbers.

For almost ten years, more and more students made their way to Radboud University. Every year, the university grew to record heights, until the previous academic year when the university attracted a few dozen less students. This decline continues, although it is a modest decrease (1 percent).

It’s noteworthy that external intake has increased by 13 percent. These are students who, for example, have completed a bachelor’s degree at another university and come to Nijmegen for a master’s degree. Last year, this group decreased in comparison to the previous year.


Zooming in, we see that the Law Faculty has the largest decline. This year, 8,5 percent fewer students are studying there than last year. According to the university, this is partly due to higher requirements set by the faculty since 2020 for incoming students from vocational education.

The Faculty of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies (-3.7 percent), the Management Faculty (-3.3), the Faculty of Arts (-2.9), and FNWI (-1.3) also have fewer students than last year.

An opposite trend can be observed at the Faculty of Social Sciences (5.5 percent more students than last year). Compared to five years ago, this faculty houses 27 percent more students, almost 6,000 in total. It is by far the largest faculty, followed by the Faculty of Management Sciences (4,808). Only the smallest faculty in Nijmegen, the FFTR, grew faster the past five years percentagewise (34 percent). Nearly 1,000 students now study there.

Almost 11 percent of students at Radboud University come from abroad. That number has decreased to 2,580 students (-1.6 percent). The social sciences and FNWI are the most international. New students mainly come from Germany (148), followed by Greeks and Poles (46 and 42 students, respectively).

National Overview

According to the October figures, a total of 340,700 students are enrolled in Dutch universities. That’s almost 700 more than last academic year.
For the first time in years, the influx of international bachelor students has slightly decreased. The international master intake is growing with 550 students, but these are mainly students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in the Netherlands.

Jouke de Vries, interim chairperson of the Universities of the Netherlands, therefore, calls on politics not to take radical measures against internationalization. According to De Vries, science is ‘naturally transcendent’, and the Netherlands should cherish the international character of its’ universities.

At the same time, the universities want to have better control on the intake. Since 2018, they have been asking politics for ‘instruments’ with which they can steer the intake of international students, such as a numerus fixus for an English-language track within a program.

Whether De Vries’s call will be heard within the newly forming cabinet remains uncertain. Parties such as New Social Contract (NSC) and VVD, for example, want to significantly cut higher education by making bachelor’s education Dutch again, with or without an exception for technical programs.

Translated by Siri Joustra

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