Chelsea Samantha

Student interest for bachelors in the Netherlands, from Germany unexpectedly slips   


Germany is the biggest source of international students for the Netherlands. German students maintained a steady level of interest in English-taught programmes in the Netherlands in 2019 and in 2020. Student interest for bachelors in the Netherlands, from Germany, however, has unexpectedly slipped in 2021.  

It has been widely expected that the UK’s Brexit loss of student numbers from Germany would translate as a gain to the Netherlands. However, Studyportals data shows a 6.8% drop in student interest from 18- to 20-year-olds from Germany for Dutch university programmes. 

This drop was measured comparing the last 12 months (September 2021 – October 2020 against September 2020 – October 2019): in the last 12 months 18.2% of German interest for Bachelor’s programmes was captured by programmes in the Netherlands; in the previous year, it was 19.5%.The drop is significant and materialized starting from the summer of 2021.  

Student demand for programmes is measured by the number of times a programme is being viewed by prospective students: this does not immediately translate into enrolments. Studyportals research, however demonstrated a good correlation between student searches and enrolments, with an 18 months hiatus between the two. 

On average, students search for programmes from 18 months before enrollment, so the effects of the decrease will likely be seen in the future.  

Not all cities are going to be equally affected. While Amsterdam is still the most sought-after destination for German prospective Bachelor’s students, its share of German demand for cities abroad decreased by 2%. 

In terms of share of interest captured three cities were affected the most: 

  1. Groningen (-19%) 
  2. Maastricht (-17%) 
  3. Leiden (-12%) 
Level:   Bachelor’s            
Origin:   Germany            
Destination:   All except for Germany  
  Share of German demand among cities abroad   Global position among destinations abroad  
Top-10 Cities in the Netherlands   previous year   last 12 months   % change  previous year   last 12 months   Change in position  
Amsterdam   3.03%   2.96%   -2%   1   1   -  
Groningen   2.33%   1.89%   -19%   4   4   -  
Maastricht   1.79%   1.49%   -17%   6   8   -2  
Den Haag   1.59%   1.53%   -4%   7   7   -  
Eindhoven   1.40%   1.36%   -3%   10   9   +1  
Leiden   1.36%   1.19%   -12%   11   12   -1  
Tilburg   1.18%   1.21%   3%   13   11   +2  
Rotterdam   1.05%   1.17%   11%   18   13   +5  
Nijmegen   1.00%   1.14%   14%   20   15   +5  
Utrecht   1.03%   0.98%   -5%   19   23   -4  

The same cohort of German students was  18% less interested in the UK, 11% more interested in the US, and 22% more interested in Ireland.  

In absolute terms, however, the drop was even more pronounced, with a 4% projected global decrease in German searches for study options abroad. Such diminishing interest confirms ongoing demographic shifts in the population.  A 4% drop in interest for studying bachelor level programmes abroad from Germany, corresponds to the 4% drop in 18- to 20-year-olds in the general population. 

However, the shift in study destination interest cannot be explained purely by shifts in Germany’s aging population alone. Other trends are concurrent in higher education, such as the increasing number of English-taught programmes offered by German universities. 


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