Netherlands Ranks No. 1 for English Proficiency Globally: 90% Surge in Google Searches for Studying in the Country

Netherlands Europe International Studies Higher Education News Statistics by Erudera News Nov 21, 2023

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The Netherlands has once again claimed the top spot for English proficiency globally, according to a recent report by EF Education First, a leading company in international education.

Of 113 countries evaluated for English proficiency, the Netherlands secured an impressive score of 647 points, as well as the top position in Europe among 34 countries, Erudera.com reports.

The Netherlands’ proficiency in English is among advantages for those who don’t speak the Dutch language, especially international students who, in large numbers, have chosen to study in the country in recent years.

Official data indicate that the number of international students at Dutch universities has increased over the past decade from just under 54,000 in 2011 to nearly 122,300 in the 2022/23 academic year.

Between 2006 and 2022, the international student share at Dutch universities has risen substantially, from 5.5 percent to around 15 percent. In the 2021/22 academic year, international students in the Netherlands accounted for 13.7 percent of all students.

This has placed the Netherlands ahead of prominent study destinations like the United States and Germany, where the international student shares are 4.7 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

Google searches also confirm the Netherlands’ popularity among international students. Data collected by Erudera show that two of the most significant search topics are “Studying in the Netherlands” and “Studying in Amsterdam.”

From July to November this year, there was a remarkable 90 percent increase in searches for studying in the Netherlands. Similarly, the searches for studying in Amsterdam saw a significant 106 percent rise within the same timeframe.

The rapid rise in international students has not gone unnoticed, with the Dutch government raising concerns about its educational system, asking universities to stop active recruitment of international students.

Earlier this year, the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Robbert Dijkgraaf, announced the government’s planned steps to improve the management of international students moving to the Netherlands.

He sent a letter to the House of Representatives in The Hague, explaining that the influx of international students could lead to overcrowded classrooms and a lack of student housing, among other concerns.

“Left unchecked, the current numbers will lead to overcrowded lecture halls, excessive workloads for lecturers, a lack of student accommodation, and reduced access to study programs.”

Nearly 40 percent of first-year students at Dutch universities were international students last year, which share in 2015 was 28 percent.

Additionally, there have been efforts to limit the use of the English language in higher education, aiming to preserve the Dutch language and ensure that domestic students have the same access to educational opportunities.

Nonetheless, this year, international student enrollment in the country has stabilized, remaining the same as last year, recent data have shown.

The EF Education First rankings further reveal that the top ten countries with very high proficiency in English are:

  • Singapore (631)
  • Austria (616)
  • Denmark (615)
  • Norway (614)
  • Sweden (609)
  • Belgium (608)
  • Portugal (607)
  • South Africa (605)
  • Germany (604)

>> A Third of Int'l Students Stay to Work in the Netherlands After Graduation, Figures Reveal

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