The Netherlands increasingly popular with Chinese students
In recent years, the Netherlands has made efforts to attract more foreign students, at the same time its immigration policy has been changed to increase the number of highly skilled professionals entering the country.
Both these factors have seen the Netherlands become one of the most popular destinations for foreign students, naturally including the Chinese.
In spite of the world economic downturn that has hit China hard, the number of new Chinese students coming to Dutch universities has increased steadily over the past two years, bringing the total number to around 7000. For Chinese students, the most popular majors are those that can improve chances of employment, such as economics, finance, logistics and business studies, and also those subjects the Netherlands specialises in, such as agriculture, horticulture, environmental management and industrial design.
In September 2008 about 2000 Chinese students came to the Netherlands, a 30 percent rise from the previous year. A similar increase is expected this September, bringing the number of Chinese entering the Netherlands to study to around 2600. Among these students, about 50 percent are studying at Master’s level, 30 to 35 percent at Bachelor’s level and 15 percent are on preparation courses that will enable them to follow an academic degree once they pass. Fee-paying students still vastly outnumber exchange students.
Special visa and scholarships
Jacques van Vliet, the director of NESO Beijing, an affiliate of the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education (NUFFIC), told RNW what makes the Netherlands an attractive destination: “The government issues a special visa enabling foreign students to stay for another year after completing their studies to look for a job.”
Lan Zhang, a former Chinese student who now works at RNW, explains: “Once you get a work contract, you can get a work visa for the duration of your contract. As soon as you get a permanent work contract, you can get a 5-year work visa, which entitles you to apply for a permanent Dutch residence permit.”
Another important factor is that the Dutch government has made special scholarships available for Chinese students. “The Orange Tulip Scholarship”, Van Vliet says, “started in 2008. Every year 30 top Chinese students get scholarships either in way of a tuition waiver or company fellowship”. Many well-known Dutch companies, like KLM and KEMA, have offered sponsorships.
High tuition fees
Yang Peng, the spokesman of the Chinese Student Association in the Netherlands, disagrees with Van Vliet. “Scholarships are rather limited compared to huge tuition fee increases,” he says. “From 2007 to 2009, many universities have raised tuition fees by a third. At the same time, accommodation is also becoming more expensive.” Although the appreciation of the Chinese currency compensates somewhat, the overall costs of studying in the Netherlands is higher. Yang expects that the delay effect will become apparent in one or two years.
The economic crisis has had not had much impact on the number of Chinese studying abroad; on the contrary, numbers are up. According to the Chinese government, the employment rate of recent Chinese graduates is only about 30 percent, though many say this figure is over-optimistic. To continue studying naturally becomes an important alternative for many young Chinese. Studying in the Netherlands is obviously one of the favourable options.