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No surge in freshmen next year at universities

Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau,
17 mei 2023 - 11:59

Universities appear to be attracting slightly fewer first-year bachelor’s students next year. This is contrary to expectations, given the return of the basic scholarship. Higher education is growing slightly thanks to two-year associate degrees.

In principle, study applicants must apply for a bachelor’s degree in higher education before May 1. For programs with entry restrictions, this must be done even earlier. So in early May it usually becomes clear what the trend is for next year.

It doesn’t make much difference, but universities currently have 1.6 percent fewer provisional applications than at this time last year. This means about 2,000 potential students.


Applications to college undergraduate programs are down 0.9 percent, with more than 1,200 fewer preliminary applications. This is offset by growth in two-year associate degrees, which have an additional 1,700 applications for the time being.

Anything goes
On the other hand, anything can still happen. At this time last year, universities counted 108,000 preliminary applications, while only 60,000 new bachelor’s students appeared at the start.

So a good portion dropped out. The same always happens in higher education. Of the 141,000 provisional applicants, only 91,000 remained. That’s a whopping 50,000 fewer.

“It is true that preliminary applications are currently slightly down compared to last year,” acknowledges the university association UNL. “But it is too early for us now to draw conclusions or guess at the causes.” Colleges also attribute a low predictive value to pre-enrollments.

Anything can still happen: a good proportion of students always drops out

Still, expectations were different. Last year’s drop would only be temporary, some administrators thought. They assumed that some young people simply postponed studying for a year because they would receive a basic grant again beginning in September 2023.
But a “surge” of students in September 2023 does not seem to be a reality at this point. The first tallies of actual enrollments usually come in late October. After corrections and checks, final figures then follow in the spring.

For colleges, a shrinkage in the number of undergraduate students is in the offing anyway. This is one of the topics that Minister of Education Dijkgraaf wants to take by the horns in his announced “future exploration.”

But colleges are offering more and more Ad or associate degrees, meant to be studies in between the MBO-4 and the HBO bachelor, or applied science bachelor’s. These two-year associate degrees continue to grow and in fact, have now increased by 22 percent.

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