Benefiting from low tuition fees and a range of courses offered in English you could join the 90,000 international students currently studying in the Netherlands
You’ll be surrounded by the tulips, windmills and canals that the country is famous for, and have the luxury of exploring by bicycle, the country’s preferred mode of transport.
You won’t be lost for things to do in this multicultural country – the Netherlands is full of museums, art galleries and vibrant nightlife, making it the perfect student destination.
Once you’ve exhausted all there is to see and do, you’ll be well placed to explore the rest of Europe – popular tourist destinations such as Paris, Brussels and Berlin are just a short train ride away.
The Dutch culture is open-minded and direct, and this extends to the classroom where an interactive, teamwork-based learning style is adopted. During your studies you’ll be encouraged to develop and express your opinions during discussions.
The Netherlands is home to two main types of institution:
- Research universities – offering research-based qualifications in an academic setting at Bachelors, Masters and PhD level. There are 14 of these.
- Universities of Applied Science (UAS) – the country’s 39 UAS institutions offer more vocational courses, focused on practical application of training and education in the arts and sciences. UAS courses offer more opportunities for internships and work experience placements.
There are a smaller number of Institutes for International Education, where postgraduate courses are delivered by those with experience of working in developing countries. These are typically part of research universities.
Universities in the Netherlands make their mark in world rankings, with 13 Dutch institutions appearing in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020. The University of Amsterdam leads the way in 59th place, followed by Delft University of Technology and Wageningan University & Research in 63rd and 64th respectively.
The grading system in the Netherlands is different to what you may be more familiar with in the UK. Programmes are evaluated on a ten-point scale, where 1 constitutes very poor work and a 10 is classed as outstanding. The majority of students achieve between a 4 and an 8 in their degrees.
The academic year runs from September to June.
Degree courses in the Netherlands
Dutch undergraduate courses can be studied both full and part time, and while course length depends on the subject, full-time degrees typically take three years to complete.
You’ll be able to find courses in subjects ranging from architecture to zoology, but the country’s most popular programmes are in language and culture, engineering, behaviour and society and economics.
Popular student destinations in the Netherlands include:
Entry requirements for higher education courses in the Netherlands are decided by individual institutions. You’ll usually need to submit transcripts of your previous qualifications, a CV and cover letter and proof of your language proficiency, if the course you’re enrolling on isn’t delivered in your first language.
The Netherlands offers a number of Masters qualification:
- Academic Masters – aims to develop the skills you’ll need for employment as well as your knowledge of one or many subject areas.
- Research Masters – on a research Masters, you’ll engage in scientific research and hone your analytical skills.
- Teacher training Masters.
Academic Masters typically take one year to complete but research Masters, teacher training Masters and courses in science, maths and engineering take two years.
Masters programmes at universities of applied science last between one and four years, and are designed to prepare you for managerial or leadership roles in a specific profession. Most students on these courses are already working in a relevant job and study part time – this allows you to practice as you learn and bring your experiences back to the classroom for personal development.
For most Masters courses you’ll need a Bachelors degree (or equivalent qualification) and proof of your proficiency in the language, where needed. Check with individual institutions for any specific entry requirements.
A PhD in the Netherlands involves working in close collaboration with a supervisor to research and write a dissertation. You’ll typically complete a PhD over the course of four years.
All PhD students are part of either a graduate school or a research school, which is a partnership between multiple research universities and institutions. Some universities also partner with private sector businesses, although this isn’t as common.
Once you’ve submitted your dissertation you’ll have to attend a public defence. Unlike in the UK, this is a big ceremony where you’ll be required to present your paper and field questions from an audience, accompanied by supporting staff. Your PhD must be published before this examination.
To be accepted onto a PhD you’ll need a Masters or equivalent qualification and proof of health insurance, either via a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or private policy. Many universities employ their students as full-time researchers, so if this applies to you you’ll also need to prove you’re capable of this responsibility.
Students from EU/EEA countries pay a fixed rate of €2,060 per year (£1,784) for tuition, the same as Dutch students. For students from all other countries, the figure is higher – the national average for Bachelors programmes is €6,000 to €15,000 per year. For a Masters, this rises to between €8,000 and €20,000.
Private schools have the freedom to charge higher rates, and most do. A Dutch Bachelors degree, typically lasting four years, can cost EU/EEA students up to €36,000 when studied privately.
As well as tuition costs you’ll have to factor in the cost of living. Although this figure is likely to be higher in popular student areas, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the Dutch government estimates you’ll need €800 to €1,100 a month for accommodation, travel, food and drink and other expenses.
Funding to study in the Netherlands
EU Masters students under the age of 55 can apply for a postgraduate loan from the Dutch government. To do so, you’ll need a Dutch bank account and citizen service number, which you’ll receive once registering your permanent address in the country.
The loan covers the cost of your tuition fees, and is paid into your bank account in monthly instalments. It’s your responsibility to then pay the university. Interest rates are applied to the loan from the day you take it out.
You’ll have a two-year interval following graduation, after which you must repay the loan in full within 15 years. Unlike the Student Finance system in England, the loan is not voided after the repayment period.
There are a number of grants and scholarships on offer to international students in the Netherlands – visit Study in Holland – Find a scholarship to search for opportunities.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for PhD funding you can use the European Commission’s (EC) researcher funding service EURAXESS.
As an EU/European Economic Area (EEA) citizen you’re free to study in the Netherlands without a visa. Your university will register your attendance with the Dutch immigration authorities.
From all other countries you’ll need an entry visa (MVV) and residence permit (VVR) for the duration of your stay. To obtain these, you’ll apply through your chosen university and collect the necessary documents from the Dutch embassy or consulate in your home country.
If you’re staying in the Netherlands for longer than four months, you’ll need to register with the Dutch council Personal Records Database at your local town hall.
Contact your chosen university directly to find out whether you need to apply directly or through Studielink.
Aim to apply as early as possible – most courses start in September and it’s best to begin preparing your application up to a year in advance. Some universities offer Numerus Fixus programmes, where the course has a certain set capacity, and for these, the application deadline typically falls in January. Check with your university to find out specific dates.
With more than 1,500 English-speaking courses offered at Dutch universities, and 95% of the population speaking some level of English, you won’t need to be fluent in Dutch to study in the Netherlands.
However, if you’re applying for a course taught in a language that isn’t your native tongue, you’ll need to prove your proficiency by taking a recognised test:
- If you’re a non-native English speaker enrolling on a course taught in English, you should take either the IELTS or TOEFL tests.
- If you’re a non-native Dutch speaker enrolling on a course taught in Dutch, you can take the NT2 or CNaVT.
Studying in the Netherlands presents a great opportunity to learn the language, even if you don’t need it for your course. Many universities offer beginner-level courses to international students.
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