Steep decline in Dutch BSc students at WUR

'We must position ourselves better as a student university'
Students in the Aurora central hall. Photo Guy Ackermans

The number of first-year bachelor students that enrolled in Wageningen in the 2021-2022 academic year is much lower than the previous year. The total number of enrolments shows a slight increase. Dean of Education Arnold Bregt explains.

This academic year’s latest data on WUR shows that the number of Dutch bachelor students decreased by 211 from last year. In the 2020-2021 academic year, 1529 bachelor students were enrolled. This year there are 1318. The number of Dutch masters students dropped by 51. The influx of foreign bachelor and transfer students (mainly hbo students following a six-month programme in preparation for a master) has remained more or less stable. The decline is seen in students who have enrolled in the bachelor or master trajectory for the first time. The total number of enrolments has increased one per cent from the previous year, keeping the total number of students in Wageningen at around 13,000.

The domain to which we held exclusive rights for a long time is in demand

Dean of Education Arnold Bregt

Dean of Education Arnold Bregt describes a trend: ‘The lower influx of students from the Dutch VWO has been going on for a while. In 2017, 1600 students enrolled, against 1318 now. We are not compensating for this decline through an additional influx of non-Dutch students as many other universities do, where there is an increase in international bachelor students. We are still very much a Dutch bachelor university, which limits this option.’

Concerns and competition

Bregt states he is satisfied with the total international influx as well as with the total number of students enrolled at WUR. The number of masters’ students remains stable. The influx of Dutch students in the bachelor programmes is cause for concern, however. The declining trend is, in part, due to the national decline in students attending the Dutch VWO. There is also increased competition from other Dutch universities within Wageningen’s domain. ‘The sustainable development goals where our expertise lies, and the domain to which we held exclusive rights for a long time is in demand, and other universities are now also working within that field. Not that you could blame them. If you consider the significant issues we face, such as climate, having more smart people working on solutions is a good thing. But that competition should prompt us to position ourselves better as a key player in these domains.’


WUR is working on solutions to improve its position, says the dean: ‘Research agency Motivaction held a survey among our students on WUR’s image, and the Communications and Student Recruitment department is collaborating with us to investigate how the world around us and prospective students perceive WUR. I think we should position WUR more as a “student university”. If you check out our website, for example, there is a lot of news about research. There is nothing wrong with that, but it does not exude the idea that we are a student university with interesting education, exciting student life and great facilities. We must really express that more.’

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