A new study by Nuffic, the Dutch organization for international cooperation in higher education, sheds light on the factors that influence international students’ decisions to stay or leave the Netherlands after graduation. The study, which surveyed 680 former students from around the world, found that quality of life and career opportunities are the most important factors for those who choose to remain in the country.
Quality of life matters
The study revealed that 84 percent of international students who stayed in the Netherlands cited quality of life as either “important” or “extremely important” in their decision. This factor was particularly significant for students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), who mentioned it more often than those from within the EEA.
Career opportunities also played a significant role in the decision-making process. Eighty-two percent of stayers indicated that career opportunities in the Netherlands were (extremely) important, while 77 percent mentioned work-life balance.
Personal and economic influences
Beyond these societal factors, personal and economic factors also influenced the decision to stay or leave. For example, having a partner in the Netherlands was mentioned by 55 percent of stayers, while the general economic environment, including job stability, working conditions, and pension, was also considered important.
The study’s findings highlight the importance of preparing international students for the Dutch labor market and enhancing their integration into Dutch society. Education institutions, such as Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), are taking steps to address these challenges by offering discounts on Dutch language courses, appointing career officers dedicated to the needs of international students, and fostering connections between Dutch and international students through programs like “Erasmus Verbindt” (Erasmus Connects).
Language proficiency and societal integration
“Speaking Dutch is key to integration into Dutch society and finding a job in the Netherlands,” said Karen de Man, Senior International Relations Officer at EUR. “We want to make sure that our international students have the language skills they need to succeed.”
The study also emphasizes the importance of addressing the housing shortage and cultural barriers that international students face in the Netherlands. While the decision to stay or leave is ultimately personal, the study provides valuable insights for education institutions and policymakers seeking to create a more welcoming environment for international students.