Going Dutch – An overview of higher education in Netherlands

Do you love Tulips, Stroopwafels, Windmills, or Clogs? Well, look no further than Netherlands – a country that has also given us some famous inventions like the Submarine, Microscope, and even their water engineering techniques. The Dutch people are renowned for their warmth and welcoming nature, as well as their height! What many Indians do not realise or know about is the high quality of education that universities in Netherlands are providing.

As the first non-Anglophone country to start teaching courses in English, Universities in the Netherlands now offer over 1700 English-taught programs. In fact, the language is widely spoken across the country and even shopkeepers or cabdrivers have no problems conversing in English. The education here tends to be interactive, and students are expected to participate actively in discussions, workshops, presentations, and research. Most universities also provide options for internships and exchange programs with institutions in other countries.

Although I am not a huge believer in rankings, it may be pertinent to mention that several Dutch Universities find a place in the top 200 of international higher education rankings, providing many parents the comfort to send their children here.

There are two types of higher education institutions in Netherlands, offering slightly varying approaches to education:

  • research-oriented and primarily academic education – offered by research universities;
  • professional and vocational education – offered by the universities of applied sciences.

While a Research University will focus more on academically-oriented work, professional skills are also a part of most programs to ensure students are ready for work. Their bachelor programs are for three years, with a master’s needing a further 1-2 years study. On the other hand, at a University of Applied Science students can choose a more practical program to prepare for a specific career. Bachelor’s programs at these universities are for 4 years and can lead to a master’s programme at a University of Applied Science. Both degrees are recognised globally and many graduates from Dutch university programs pursue a master’s and/or Ph.D. at some of the world’s leading universities.

Dutch universities can be quite rigorous in their academic expectations and generally have a performance requirement for the first year. This is called Binding Study Advice and students failing to achieve certain performance parameters during their first year would not be allowed to progress beyond this point.

Netherlands is also famous for its University Colleges, which offer liberal arts and sciences programs to students looking for a very broad curriculum where they can choose their major in the second year of the program. Other distinguishing characteristics of these colleges are their small discussion-based classrooms, and the living learning residential communities they offer.


The admissions process at universities in Netherlands may differ widely and you should check with individual institutions. The following is a brief and general overview of some common requirements.

  • High School graduation – most high school qualifications from across the world are accepted
  • Some majors will require specific and relevant subjects at the high school level
  • Some universities or programs may have additional requirements like LOR’s, Essays, or standardised tests
  • All students must register with ‘Studielink’- the Dutch government student registration system. In addition to this registration, students would usually apply directly to the university and program, addressing its specific requirements
  • Most application deadlines fall between January and June, while some programs have rolling admissions
  • Some selective programs are designated as ‘Numerus Fixus’ (Fixed Number) wherein students can choose upto two such selective programs in Studielink and then apply to these universities within a deadline. This way, all students are provided an equal opportunity to be selected for the limited seats in such programs.


University tuition fees are set by the government and would generally be the same for all of them. For the year 2018-19, International students from countries outside the EU/EEA will usually pay about €6,000 to €15,000 per year. Average living expenses would be around €800 to €1000 a month, depending upon location.

There are several ways for students to get help in financing their studies in the Netherlands. While there are state funded grants for dutch passport holders, and tuition fee loans for EU/EEA students, there may be some university provided scholarships for international students as well. Students can also work part time to offset some of their costs.

Important Websites for more information

Leave a Reply