Here comes the Greek invasion

Whether it’s the global economic crisis, Greece’s faltering economy, TU Delft’s growing popularity in Europe or a combination of all the above, fact is that Greece now trails only China and India in the number of international students per country studying at TU Delft.

The new academic year has started in Delft, with the many new faces flooding the faculty corridors with the usual anxiety, questions and fuss that mark the first weeks of classes. ”How do I enroll for courses?” “Where do we have class next?” All the typical queries, typically answered by us experienced, ‘self-assured’ senior students.
This year however there is something different about this bunch of international newcomers. This year the everyday activities in faculties seem more stressed than usual and the discussions louder, while, at least to this author’s ears, there is always a persistent yet familiar lingo being spoken somewhere in the background.

One quickly understands what has happened: a Greek invasion of TU Delft, which is also validated by the university’s various official enrollment figures. This year there was a sharp rise in the number of Greek students pursuing MSc degrees at TU Delft. This year’s total is 80 Greek students, which is more than double from last year, putting Greece at No 3 in the country ranking of TU Delft’s international student enrollments, trailing only China (135 students) and India (102 students), respectively.
In 2008-09 and 2009-10, there were only 36 and 38 Greek students respectively, accepted to the university. Moreover, last year Greece occupied fifth position in the international student nationality ranking, behind Iran (third) and Italy (fourth).

China of course has long been the single largest ‘supplier’ of international students to TU Delft, but this year the actual number of Chinese newcomers dropped from 152 students to 135. India however continues to bridge the gap with China, supplying increasingly more students each year.
Digging deeper into the statistics, it’s interesting to also consider the actual numbers of students who applied to TU Delft according to nationality. China unsurprisingly leads with 554 applicants, followed by India and Greece with 459 and 231, respectively. But compared to last year’s number of applicants, Greece had the largest increase rate: 75 percent.

Elco van Noort, head of TU Delft’s International Office, offered some insights about the university administration’s views and policies in this area. Asked if the university also selects according to the applicants’ nationalities and if EU students are considered first on the list, his answer was forthright: “The faculties assess the students, and the criteria are clear for English proficiency, GPA and a BSc diploma from a qualified university. These are more or less hard criteria. In addition, the students are further assessed based on their essay. The assessment has nothing to do with nationality.”

Looking over this year’s nationality figures, Van Noort was asked to make a prediction for the future. “It’s envisaged that the number of European students will increase”, he said. “According to the Bologna Process, an international MSc degree will become more common, as more TU Delft students also pursue international Master’s degrees abroad. We assume that this will also strengthen our international networks, thus further enhancing international mobility. In our perspective, these developments are very much welcomed in order to provide answers to major global problems.”
Returning to the case of Greece, Van Noort was asked why he thought more and more Greek students are applying to and enrolling in TU Delft. He remarked that several Greek students had already been asked this question and that they had noted four main reasons: TU Delft is a very good university of technology in a nice city and offers very competitive fees; many Greeks already have Greek student friends studying in Delft who are enthusiastic about the university; the perspectives for the Greek universities are fairly gloomy; and given the economic situation back home, many Greek students want ensure they have international prospects for finding a good job with a high qualified international education.

But what do Greek students themselves have to say about all this? While questioning several of them, it soon became clear that despite some variety in personal opinions, the majority of responses were quite similar. When asked why she decided to study abroad, Efthymia Foka (Water Management) replied: “I was interested in studying something related to water management and I wanted to gain experience from one of the best in this area. Also, going abroad is a great opportunity to develop your way of thinking.”

When asked why they decided to study at TU Delft, most Greek students mentioned the university’s fine international reputation. “TU Delft was my first and only choice, as it’s considered as number one in Europe in my field”, said Panagiotis Afratis (Computer Engineering). In terms of the professional opportunities available back home, most of the students did not offer very positive assessments. “The Greek market is small and most of the opportunities can only be found in the capital, Athens”, Afratis said.
Sonia Lourma (Geology Engineering) was however rather more optimistic in her views: “There are few people with my background in Greece, and this would make my field quite promising in terms of professional opportunities.” However, she also agreed that generally there aren’t many opportunities in other professions in Greece.

Regarding the ongoing economic crisis, Greece is widely regarded as being at the epicenter of international developments. “It’s a difficult period”, admits Michalis Prodromou (Building Engineering), “but this shouldn’t be regarded as a Greek issue only. Furthermore, this is a chance for necessary reforms to be made that had to be implemented anyway.”

According to Ioannis Giannelos (Transport, Infrastructure & Logistics), “the situation isn’t good. People in Greece feel rather desperate and purchasing power is in decline.” Although Giannelos has just begun his studies, he, like all the Greek students interviewed, said he’d very much like to return home to Greece after he graduates. But, as he explains, “it remains unclear if I will finally go back. That will very much depend on the labor market situation at the time of my graduation.” 

 Ze zouden al snel twee- à driehonderd euro kunnen terugkrijgen, maar zijn er te slordig voor. Studenten vragen geen belasting terug of vergeten aftrekposten: studieboeken, een computer, een studiereis enzovoorts. Maar ook het collegegeld: dat mag je van de belasting aftrekken als je geen basisbeurs meer ontvangt.

Een deel van de studenten zou een verkeerd teruggavebiljet invullen: een TJ-biljet voor jongeren tot 29 jaar, in plaats van het uitgebreidere T-biljet. Ook dat scheelt geld.

Het is niet bekend om hoeveel studenten het precies gaat, maar in 2008 herinnerde de belastingdienst ongeveer 430 duizend mensen – vooral jongeren – eraan dat ze voor belastingteruggave in aanmerking kwamen. Veertig procent vroeg alsnog belasting terug, maar zestig procent liet het erbij zitten.

Wie er recht op heeft, mag tot vijf jaar na dato nog belasting terugvragen.

Editor Redactie

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