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Recruitment of foreign students: more and more rivals in the field

MAASTRICHT. The influx of foreign students at Maastricht University is still the highest in the Netherlands, but there are more and more rivals, not just in the Netherlands, but also abroad. This was shown by the latest figures from Marketing & Communicatie.

The UM is still the market leader in the Netherlands when it comes to the recruitment of German, Belgium, French, Italian and for example, Spanish students, but the market share of bachelor’s programmes is decreasing, says Zoë den Boer, senior advisor for international marketing and student recruitment. The market share for the master’s programmes remains reasonably stable.

Competition on the international student market is not just from sister institutes that increasingly ‘fish in the same pond’, so to speak. Scandinavian countries (offering many study programmes in English, and charging no or low tuition fees) are working their way forward. Germany, where the quality of education has risen the past few years, tuition fees are lower, and more and more programmes are offered in English, is very busy recruiting too. With success: the influx of foreign students increased by 6 per cent this year. Asia, Den Boer tells us, is also a popular destination now that the quality of education and the economy are rising. China, for example, attracted 400 thousand international students in 2015, a growth of more than 5 per cent compared to 2014.

Then there are the political factors that play a (positive as well as negative) role, such as Brexit. The Greeks and Cypriots, who previously went to Great Britain, are changing their course, says Den Boer. “I was at a Holland Day in Athens this spring, organised by the Dutch embassy, which was busier than ever.” British prospective students are left in uncertainty: “Will they soon be non-EU students and will their tuition fees rise considerably?” At the moment, it is not very noticeable in the bachelor's programmes (increase of 13 per cent of first-year students at the UM), but the master’s influx decreased by 17 per cent in September.

While the influx of Italians, Spanish and French is growing, the share of German students is decreasing (minus 13 per cent in the bachelor's programmes this year, but there is a growth of 6 per cent in the master's). Den Boer: “We are keeping an eye on that, they are good students, we would like to maintain this number and will invest extra in the recruitment in Germany.” Spain too, appears to be a growing market, with increasing numbers of programmes in English, and will receive extra attention in the future. China also remains important: “Very good for the international classroom.”

The French are no longer shying away from study programmes in another language. “I have been visiting the study markets in Paris for years, and every year I hear more and more English spoken. Academic English is gaining territory at universities and Macron is the first French president who speaks the language fluently.” It is important that students continue to fit in with Problem-Based Learning system. That can be a point, certainly as far as the French are concerned, says Den Boer: “They have often grown up in a traditional system, which sometimes creates problems.”





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