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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.

Dutch universities

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:

  • Amsterdam
  • Rotterdam
  • Utrecht
  • Groningen
  • Maastricht.

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.

Use the Study in Holland – Studyfinder tool to search for degree courses in the Netherlands, and apply through the central applications portal Studielink.

Masters degrees

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.

Student exchanges

Students attending a UK university who want to study in the Netherlands can take part in the European Union’s (EU) education, training and youth support programme, Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to many young people, with opportunities lasting from three months to one academic year.

Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative for any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation that is actively involved in education and training. However, your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in another EU country, of which the Netherlands is one. Speak to your institution for information on how to apply.

This information remains valid following the UK’s decision to leave the EU and will be updated if any changes occur.

Course fees

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.

Student visas

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.

How to apply

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.

Language requirements

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.

Admission Requirements to study in the Netherlands

If you want to study in the Netherlands and you want to begin your application, you need to know the requirements of the universities in the Netherlands so you can meet this requirements thereby becoming eligible for admission. This article would discuss this requirements and the deadlines of admissions application submission.

The first and important thing you need to know is that every university has its specific requirement and this vary between universities. Also, admission requirements depend on the programme you want to study and various programs have varying requirements.

Therefore, to be admitted to a higher education programme, you first need to contact the institution that offers the programme. They can tell you exactly which admission requirements apply to the programme of your choice.

However, there are general basic requirements that universities require. So not to leave you in the dark, this article would discuss the general requirements you need to get admitted into a university in the Netherlands.

General Entry Requirements

The principal requirement for admission to a bachelor’s degree programme is a high school diploma at the appropriate level. This level is set by the institution.

In some popular fields, the number of places is minimal and quotas are usually set. There are also study programmes – in the arts for example – for which institutions set their own extra requirements

For admission to a master’s degree programme, you must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.

If you know which diploma the institution of your choice has set as a minimum requirement, you should check how your diploma compares to this on the actual Nuffic website.

Language Requirements


If you will be studying in the Dutch language, you will need to prove your degree of fluency of the Dutch language. To do this, you need to have taken any of the following exams and present results for them:


If you will study in English, it is important that you speak, read and write English well. You need to have passed an English language test. IELTS and TOEFL are generally accepted, but institutions may perhaps accept other tests too.

The required scores have least 550 (paper based) or 213 (computer based) for TOEFL. For IELTS the score of at least 6 is needed.

You can find language requirements regarding individual programmes or courses from the database of international study programmes.

Preparatory year

Sometimes you are not yet eligible for the programme of your choice, but with slightly extra preparation you could potentially become eligible.

The Dutch higher education institution of your choice can supply you with a conditional letter associated of acceptance. Dutch immigration law then permits you to come to the Netherlands for at most one year just before your studies to follow preparatory courses as well as pass the examinations set because of the institution.

After you’ve passed the exams, the conditional letter of acceptance is going to be turned into an absolute letter of acceptance. The factsheet ‘A preparatory year before admission with a Dutch university’ gives you all the information on this topic.

Admission requirements for studies at university in the Netherlands

General requirements

First cycle studies (bachelor’s)

If you have successfully completed upper secondary studies in one of the signatory countries of the Lisbon Convention, are in possession of a valid school leaving certificate and qualify for higher education studies in your home country, you may also qualify for higher education studies in the Netherlands. However, you are requested to prove your level of Dutch and/or English. In some cases, you are also required to take additional qualifying courses.

Second cycle studies (master’s)

If you are applying for a master’s program at university in the Netherlands, you are required to be in possession of a relevant bachelor’s or equivalent degree diploma.

Third cycle studies (PhD)

In the event you are applying for doctoral studies at university in the Netherlands, you are required to be in possession of a relevant diploma or master’s degree program.

Language requirements for studies at universities in the Netherlands


If the language of instruction of the study program or course you applied for is Dutch, you will be required to prove your level of command of the Dutch language. You can do so by presenting the results you receive in the following courses:


If your study program or course is taught in English, you will be required to prove your level of command of English by presenting the results you receive in the following tests:

  • TOEFL, with a score of at least 550 (paper-based) or 213 (computer-based) or 79-80 (Internet-based).
  • IELTS, with a score of at least 6.
  • Other tests may also be accepted. Therefore, you should check with your university if the certificates you have are also accepted.

In general, higher education institutions in Europe request students to have a level of command of the language of instruction equivalent to a B1/B2 level according to the European language passport scale. Please check with your institution if you need to have a higher level of command.

Minimum grade point requirement to access higher education studies in the Netherlands

Students may be ranked based on their grade point average from their previous studies. Those students with a grade point of 8 or higher are automatically awarded a place on the course of their choice.

Top 7 Reasons to Study in the Netherlands

Since I can remember, I always wanted to study abroad as I come from an international background. I was born and raised in Colombia, with a Dutch father and an American mother. I wanted to study abroad in order to complement my knowledge, expand my horizons and encounter new people and cultures.

Taking the challenge of going abroad for my studies meant I really had prepare myself for studying in a new environment away from home, and I spent a lot of time researching the options. In the end I decided to study in the Netherlands because I read a lot of positive reviews about this amazing country and what it has to offer international students. Now that I have been living here for four years, I can totally recommend the choice I made. Maybe the following seven reasons will convince you that the Netherlands is your perfect study destination too…

1. An international and multicultural environment 

Some may ask “Why study in the Netherlands?” But with boat trips on canals and lakes, lazing on beaches, enjoying the view of the woods, a moderate climate and the crossroads where the German, British, French, Chinese and many other cultures meet, others would say “Why not?”

International students from all over the world come to study in the Netherlands. In 2014/15, international students came from a total of 157 different countries, mostly from Germany, China, Belgium, Italy and Spain. Most Dutch universities have international student associations, which help students throughout their studies.  

The Netherlands is also a unique non-Anglophone country, where approximately 95% of locals speak English. This factor makes living, studying, and working in the Netherlands very convenient, comfortable and pleasant for international students. The Netherlands is also very open and tolerant, welcoming everyone to share their opinions and express themselves. This is very much encouraged during your studies.

2. Affordable study costs 

Studying in the Netherlands is not that expensive, compared with other English-speaking countries such as the UK or US. Dutch higher education is subsidized by the government and tuition fees are relatively low. With the country’s renowned standard of education and comparatively low cost of living, studying in the Netherlands will give you true value for money. Annual tuition fees for a degree program or course at a Dutch higher education institution start at approximately €1,900 for EU students and €6,000 for non-EU students, depending on the institution.

Further, if you decide to have a job alongside your studies, you can also declare these expenses, and get some money back from taxes. How cool is that? In addition, many Dutch universities offer grants and scholarships that can reduce or fully cover the tuition fees of study programs.

3. Innovative teaching methods 

The Dutch educational system is of high quality and Dutch universities are acknowledged worldwide for their well-designed, modern courses and facilities. The teaching style focuses on teamwork, which makes it easy for international students in the Netherlands to meet Dutch people as well as other international students.

Dutch universities place a strong emphasis on good personal relations between professors and students. Most tutorials and seminars take place in small groups of around 15-30 students. Most of your coursework will consist of group work, developing not only your academic skills but also your ability to work together as part of a team. Dutch universities include many practical elements in their degree courses. There is a high emphasis on relevant practical experiences, and universities have a lot of partnerships with Dutch companies, as well as international ones.

As well as general universities, there are also universities of applied sciences, which provide more specialized studies. For those who prefer to gain insights into practical issues, a university of applied sciences might be more attractive. These focus more on practical experiences and less on theoretical and research matters.

4. Affordable living expenses 

Compared with other western European locations, the cost of living in the Netherlands is relatively low. From my own experience and from my friends’, you will need between €800 and €1,000 per month. To fund this, you can combine part-time jobs and study finance. If you are a EU student, you can work 32 hours a month and be eligible for a €265 grant and a student OV-Chipkaart for free public transportation either during the week or weekends.

There are many useful websites for students to find student accommodation. I would advise you to start looking for accommodation early, because there is a huge demand. From my experience, if starting studies in September, the best months to start looking for accommodation are May, June and July. Definitely don’t wait until August, as you will end up either finding expensive or low quality rooms.

As a student, you can also get discounts in many bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas. You can get around town easily on a bicycle. This is not only typically Dutch, but also a cheap means of transportation. You should definitely ask for an ISIC Student Card to get many more benefits and discounts.

5. A wide range of degrees taught in English 

The Netherlands is known as the first non-English speaking country in which universities started to design higher education study programs in English, to attract students coming from abroad. More than 2,100 English-taught study programs and courses are available in the Netherlands, covering a broad range of fields, and leading to a bachelor’s, master’s, PhD, diploma or certificate.

It certainly does sound great: high-quality, affordable education offered in many disciplines, in an international, open-minded country. However, Dutch universities do have strict language requirements if you come from a country where English is not the native language. As an international student you are required to take the TOEFL, IELTS or a similar English language test. You should check the university where you are planning to apply, for more details about their requirements.

As I mentioned, the Netherlands is a very international country and very convenient as most people speak English. Nevertheless, I think it’s always valuable to take an introductory Dutch language course to at least pick up the basics, and many universities in the Netherlands offer Dutch languages courses for internationals. You can also use other online resources to find language courses, as well as new cool language apps and dictionaries to ease your stay in the Netherlands.   

6. Excellent opportunities for travel 

The Netherlands is centrally located in Europe and is in easy reach of all major European cities. The Netherlands is often described as the “gateway to Europe”. It takes only about an hour to fly from Amsterdam to Paris, Berlin, Brussels, or London. It also has great connections and accessibility by train to all major European cities.

The Netherlands also has a well-developed and connected transportation system, and various discounts for students make travelling quite affordable. As mentioned, when working 32 hours a month, you can also get a student OV-Chipkaart, which gives you access to free public transportation. This makes it very convenient and cheap to explore the whole country. Further, you will love how easy it is to get around with a bike – the preferred means of transportation of the Dutch, and also the cheapest. You can cycle in peace, confidence and tranquility, as there are dedicated roads for cyclists.

7. Internationally recognized degrees 

The Netherlands has also been recognized as a knowledge center with rich study traditions and well-known universities. Scientific research at Dutch universities is very highly valued at both the national and international level. Education in the Netherlands meets all international standards and is well-reputed worldwide. A diploma from a Dutch university provides an opportunity to start one’s own business and can be very useful in terms of having a successful career in any country of the world.

10 reasons to study in the Netherlands

It may be small in size, but the Netherlands continues to attract large numbers of students from far and wide and it is more than just the windmills and clogs that are enticing them here. At IHS approximately 95% of our students come from overseas so we asked them why the Netherlands is such an attractive destination for international students. Here are ten of the reasons why they chose to study in the Netherlands.     

1. World-class educational institutions

If you are going to get a degree you want to ensure that it is from a world-class institution. The Netherlands is currently ranked as the seventh best place in the world for higher education and seven Dutch universities are currently in the world’s top 100. The Erasmus University Rotterdam where IHS is based is currently ranked at number 72 in the World University Rankings 2018Opens external and is the third most highly rated university in the Netherlands.

2. Internationally recognised degrees

When you are thinking of studying abroad you may be wondering if your proposed degree will be accepted in your home country. If you choose to study in the Netherlands you can rest assured that this won’t be an issue. With world-renown Dutch educational institutions such as the Erasmus University Rotterdam, you know that a degree obtained here will be recognised wherever your life takes you.

3. Low tuition fees

When compared to other popular destinations for international students such as the United Kingdom and United States of America the tuition fees in the Netherlands are very reasonable. At IHS the tuition fee for the 2018 intake of our urban management and development master’s programme is €13,900. We also offer an early bird discount of €1000 for those that submit their fee by 1st June.   

4. Lots of international students

Currently one in 10 students in the Netherlands are from overseas, so there is a large community of international students to get involved with. Many programmes at higher educational instititions in the Netherlands are taught entirely in English so the language barrier will not be an issue. At IHS all of our educational programmes are taught exclusively in English and many members of our teaching staff are also from overseas.

5. Opportunities to stay in the Netherlands once you have graduated

Students who are non-EU/EEA nationals may be able to apply for the Orientation year visa once they have completed their degree in the Netherlands. The orientation year gives graduates who are within three years of completing their studies the opportunity to stay in the Netherlands and look for work or start a business. During this year you are able to work without the need of an additional work permit. You can find more information on this visa and the requirements on the Immigration and Naturalisation Service websiteOpens external.

6. Dutch culture

Home to the famously open-minded and direct Dutch people, the Netherlands is seen by the world as a centre for liberalism and tolerance. As well as being the tallest people in the world the Dutch are better at speaking English than any other non-native speaking country, which makes the move less daunting to many international students.

7. Affordable living costs

Living costs in the Netherlands tend to be on par with other countries and cities in western-Europe with Amsterdam being the most expensive. In Rotterdam you can expect to pay between 450 and 650 euros per month for private student room. Read our where to live in Rotterdam article for more information.

8. Explore Europe

The Netherlands is ideally located for those that want to explore Europe in their weekends and time off. With direct trains and buses from Amsterdam and Rotterdam to major European cities including Paris, Brussels, London and Frankfurt, and reasonably priced flights throughout Europe, the opportunities to explore are endless.

9. Scholarship Opportunities

If you choose to study in the Netherlands you could be eligible for a scholarship to cover a portion or even the whole of your tuition fees and living costs. The Dutch government funds a number of scholarships for international students such as the Orange Knowledge Programme. There are also a number of external funding opportunities that you could be eligible for, for more information please view our scholarships information section. 

10. You will be living in one of the happiest countries in the world

The Netherlands is constantly named as one of the happiest and safest countries in the world and 2018 was no exception. It was named as the sixth happiest country in the world and the seventh best country to live in the world by two studies conducted by the United Nations.

Convinced that you need to make the Netherlands your next study destination? Take a look at our educational programmes page for information on all the courses that IHS provides.












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