German students living near the Dutch border are beating overcrowding in their local universities by crossing the border to study at universities in the Netherlands.
Dutch higher education institutions, particularly those near Germany's industrial Ruhr district, are exploiting the influx by offering German-language degree courses and advertising for students using the German press and radio.
Venlo University, on the Dutch-German border near Duisburg, has 400 students on German-language degree courses in business studies and in marketing. It anticipates a big increase in German students this coming semester in response to its large advertising campaign in the Ruhr district.
Venlo's press spokesperson, Susanne Riemer, said: "We usually get 80-100 German beginners, but we are expecting 170-180 this September. Germany has a lot of problems with its higher education system. Many companies complain that its courses are too theoretical. Our economics degrees are very practically based and European-oriented."
German students also go to the Netherlands for the chance to complete a bachelor's degree in four years, compared with an average of seven for a German qualification. Furthermore, they can study in groups of just 30 rather than jostle in overcrowded lecture halls at home, Ms Riemer said.
In recent years, the Dutch town of Venlo has struggled to rid itself of German drug tourists, attracted by the Netherlands' more liberal drug laws. Now the proximity to Germany, which the town once bemoaned, has been turned into an advantage by the university.
Because Dutch universities are funded according to the numbers of students enrolled, they are keen to poach students from across the border.
The German visitors do not have to pay student fees like the Dutch students. If they remain resident in Germany they are entitled to the German maintenance grant-loan. As a result, most German students commute daily over the border rather than live in the Netherlands.