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Studying abroad: the Netherlands

With tuition fees at just over £1,000 pounds per year and a multitude of English-speaking options, it's not hard to see why more UK students are considering studying in the Netherlands.


Studying in the Netherlands

The Dutch have one of the oldest and well respected university systems in the world. One of the biggest attractions for students from abroad is that English is widely spoken across the country, while 1,500 courses are taught entirely in English. While most universities are state-funded, there are a few private institutions as well.

Universities are split into two categories. Research universities are, as you'd expect, more research-intensive, to prepare students for a future in academia. Universities of applied sciences, attended by around 80% of Dutch students, prepare students for a particular profession or field through group assignments and internships.

There are also university colleges which allow students to study a range of subjects, similar to liberal arts colleges in America.

Four of the country's universities made the top 100 in Times Higher Education's university world rankings 2014/2015: Leiden University (64th), Delft University of Technology (71st), Erasmus University Rotterdam (72nd), Wageningen University and Research Center (73rd), University of Amsterdam (77th) and Utrecht University (79th).

Applying to university in the Netherlands

Applications to courses beginning in September open 12 months earlier, though you can often wait until May of the year you want to begin studying to apply.

Either apply to a university in the Netherlands directly or through its equivalent to Ucas, Studielink; contact the university directly to find out which they would prefer. On Studielink you'll need to provide information about yourself such as your education history and details of how you intend to pay for your tuition fees. It is recommended that you follow up your application to a university even if you apply via Studielink. 

For a really popular course, you may have to go through the 'Numerus Fixus' system, which serves as a sort of lottery to ensure all applicants have a fair chance of getting on to that course. Often the university will still retain some discretion over who they accept. Applicants to courses through Numerus Fixus will take slightly longer to hear back to know if they have been accepted. You can only apply to one Numerus Fixus course at a time.

What's expected of you?

The first year at a Dutch university is seen as somewhat as a probationary period; if you pass, you move on to second year but if you don't, you will be asked to leave.

While this might seem harsh, it means that Dutch universities are considerably less strict when it comes to entry requirements when deciding who to accept. Provided you pass your A-levels or equivalent, they will accept you, with less of an emphasis on achieving specific grades in particular subjects. Your grades may only be considered when applying through Numerus Fixus.

As an EU/EEA student, you don't need to apply for a student visa.

Costs of studying in the Netherlands

Because universities in the Netherlands are publicly-funded, fees are typically lower than in the UK. As a student from a fellow EU/EEA country, you'll benefit from subsidised tuition fees, with annual fees typically around 1,900 EUR (around £1,300). You can either pay your fees upfront or in monthly instalments.

The Study In Holland website recommends you set aside a monthly budget of around 900 euros (more if you're in a bigger city like Amsterdam) to cover the cost of rent, food, tuition, study materials, insurance, clothes and entertainment.

Universities in the Netherlands aren't campus-cultured, as most students live at home. So you'll have to rent a room in an apartment or house from a private agent or landlord. Again, living in one of the bigger cities like Amsterdam or Utrecht will be more expensive so take this into consideration (and look out for student discounts to help cut costs).

Scholarships in the Netherlands

The basic grant, which was previously available to students, was recently abolished. However you can still apply for loans, which will need to be repaid, to help cover your tuition fees and living expenses. You can borrow up to 1,016 euros per month if you meet the relevant criteria.

Scholarships for Master's programmes are far more common than those for Undergraduate programmes.

Once you arrive in the country, getting a part-time job while you study is worth considering. If you work for over 32 hours per month (and you're under 30 years old), you are eligible to a free Dutch government grant of 266 euros per month and free public transport. While this sounds great, you will need a good grasp of the Dutch language and have been working for three months before applying.

Life in the Netherlands

Where to study

You won't be surprised to find the usual Dutch trademarks such as bikes, tulip fields and windmills but the Netherlands is by no means stuck in a bygone era. Modern, international cities attract students and non-students from around the world:

Amsterdam is very well known for its café culture and 'active' night-life; Groningen was voted the top city centre in the country; The Hague is home to both the government and Royal Family, with a strong semblance of history; Leiden is a big student hub; and Rotterdam is strikingly modern (with a booming electronic music scene, too).


Student life in the Netherlands isn't very campus-centred like in the UK. Universities don't really have a main campus but instead are based in various buildings across cities, therefore you won't feel so tied to a university or one particular location.

While this might seem a little intimidating in your first few weeks in the Netherlands, it will encourage you to explore different corners of your new home and forge friendships beyond your immediate student society.


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