New research on international students’ role in the supply of new workers for Dutch labour market

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ROA report


The number of international students in higher education has increased sharply in recent years, and they are therefore an important part of the new labour supply in the Dutch labour market. The size of this varies greatly by field of study, with a high share in STEM-fields. For fields of study such as social sciences or agriculture and nature, the share of international students is high, but they are less likely to stay in the Netherlands after graduation. These and other results are part of a new study 'Stay rates of international students graduating from Dutch higher education and their impact on labour market forecasts' by the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) of Maastricht University. 

The report shows that it matters a lot in which field foreign students study and where they come from, whether they stay in the Netherlands after their studies or not. Around 40% of international STEM-students still live in the Netherlands a year after graduating, and a large proportion of them also work here. For the labour market, this means that over 1 in 6 graduates with a master's degree in STEM are foreign, and mainly from outside the European Union. They therefore make up a significant part of the new labour supply for these fields. For social sciences, about 19% still live in the Netherlands a year after graduation. As by far the majority of foreign students study in this direction, although the number of foreign students staying in the Netherlands is higher, relatively speaking, the chance of staying is therefore much lower. Many students from Germany and Belgium are enrolled in these fields, who are likely to return after graduation. For the fields of education and healthcare, the stay rate is also high, but the number of foreign students is low. 

The fact that a group of foreign students stays in the Netherlands after graduation, especially in the sectors with more tightness, increases the supply on the labour market. Bottlenecks in the labour market could be reduced if more foreign students stayed in the Netherlands than is currently the case. In doing so, a few key findings emerged from the study. The research shows that the majority of students leave the Netherlands immediately after graduation. The graduates who stay mainly move to the 5 largest cities in the Netherlands. Policies to retain more students for the Dutch labour market should therefore be targeted to encourage students to stay in the Netherlands already during their studies. 

This publication is part of the Project Onderwijs-Arbeidsmarkt (POA) of the Research Centre for Education and the Labor Market (ROA). Henry Abbink, Jessie Bakens and Roy Meijer contributed to this study. The research is funded by Nationaal Regieorgaan Onderwijsonderzoek (NRO), UWV, Samenwerking Beroepsonderwijs Bedrijfsleven SBB, and Randstad.


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Abbink, H., Bakens, J., & Meijer, R. (2024). Blijfkansen van afgestudeerde internationale studenten uit het Nederlandse hoger onderwijs en hun impact op arbeidsmarktramingen. ROA Reports No. 002