Foreign students do not cost the Dutch state any more than they yield. On the contrary, the balance is ultimately a favourable one. This was the outcome of a special study by the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), carried out at the request of state secretary Zijlstra for Education.
Members of parliament initiated the debate about the cost of foreign students last year when they asked Zijlstra about the unbalanced situation in international student mobility. The Netherlands receives more students than it sends out, and pays about 6,000 euros a year for each student from the European Economic Area. In times of crisis and huge cutbacks, spending taxpayers' money on foreign students who reap the benefits of their Dutch diplomas in their respective home countries, is not a popular policy. Zijlstra put the question to CPB, which presented its analysis last week. It shows that foreign students are economically interesting in particular after they have completed their studies, assuming a number of them stay in the Netherlands to work. The CPB study assumes that about 19 per cent stays here (“a conservative estimate”) and thus arrives at a surplus of 740 million euros for the government. Even if calculations are based on a much smaller percentage of students remaining here, the benefits are considerable. But there are also advantages for the institutes themselves. Foreign students often do better than Dutch students and so increase the quality of the education process. The intercultural skills gained by mutual contact, are a benefit in themselves too. In the long term, these are also favourable in economic terms, says the CPB, but quantifying this effect is difficult.