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Final enrolment figures: 8% more students in 2020-2021


Increase in student numbers requires investment to be made sooner

This year at universities in the Netherlands, there are:

  • 12.8% more students enrolled in the first year of a Bachelor’s programme 
  • 19% more students enrolled in the first year of a Master’s programme 
  • Lower dropout rates among first-year students due to more lenient BSA
  • 13% more international students, including more EEA students and fewer non-EEA students


On 1 October 2020, there were 327,000 students enrolled at Dutch universities for the 2020-2021 academic year. The total number of students has grown by 8% compared to last academic year. This large growth is due to the fact that many more new students have enrolled, fewer graduates took a gap year to travel, and fewer students withdrew from their studies early.


VSNU President Pieter Duisenberg: ‘We now have a clear overview of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students, their academic performance and our staff. This crisis has placed high demands on our students as well as on education and support. Student numbers have been growing rapidly for years, and the coronavirus pandemic has given this growth a strong added boost. We are therefore consulting with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to ensure that our educational funding will now be increased sooner in line with the number of students that we have. Normally, this funding is only adjusted two years later.’


Corona jobs
Dutch universities are also focusing on corona jobs. At the beginning of December, a joint proposal was made with Dutch universities of applied sciences to create these jobs in higher education as well. Duisenberg: ‘In doing so, our aim is to support those employees whose workloads have increased even further due to the coronavirus pandemic.’ 


Structural problem
A one-time increase in funding and the creation of corona jobs will not solve the structural problem, however. More and more students are attending university, but the government funding amount per student has been declining for years. Duisenberg: ‘In order to continue offering our high-quality education and research, the government must make a substantial investment in academia. That is our message to the next cabinet.’


Increase per discipline
Degree programmes in Economics, Law and Behaviour & Society have attracted many more students this year (+10%), and programmes in disciplines like Natural Sciences (+10%) and Technology (+5%) are extremely popular as well. Duisenberg: ‘The labour market is in dire need of highly educated technical experts, good to see in these areas is promising.’


For more information:
Factsheet Final student enrolment figures for 2020-2021 (ENG)
Factsheet Study results and student well-being during the pandamic (ENG)



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