Dutch Universities

Posted on 14th June 2023

Studying in the Netherlands presents a great opportunity for UK students to get global experience. Many courses are taught in English, and there are lots of international students studying at Dutch universities, so UK students will fit in easily! This blog covers what students need to know about Dutch universities before applying, and profiles some excellent Dutch institutions.

The big three cities in the Netherlands for university are The Hague, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam. These cities are located in the Randstad region, which connects the three aforementioned cities and the other largest Dutch city, Utrecht, along with their suburbs and towns in between. Almost half of the Dutch population resides in this region.

Applying to Dutch universities suits independent, proactive students, as the institutions provide support services for students, but don't shepherd them through the experience. Dutch unis are also academically rigorous: students must pass minimum classes with strong grades, or must change programme. It's important for students to check their A-Level subjects when considering their applications, as some are not recognised for entry. Much instruction is in English, though currently officials are trying to clarify which language of instruction is best for which programmes. English is likely to continue as the language of instruction for most of the programmes for which UK students have come to know the Netherlands as a study destination. Prospective students shouldn't be daunted by this, though: this is a great opportunity to learn Dutch! Learning the language could help prepare students to stay in the Netherlands to work after university: EU students are allowed to work as many hours as they want, and non-EU students can either work a maximum of 16 hours per week, or full time during the summer. Non-EU students are allowed to stay for a year after graduation in order to work. 

There are two main types of Dutch universities: Universities of Applied Sciences and Research Universities. There are also University Colleges (a subset of Research Universities). Universities of Applied Sciences focus on practical training and often include work-experience or study abroad elements. These offer four-year bachelor degrees, and include an art and dance academy and music conservatories. Lecturers will tend to have Master’s degrees and be working professionals.

Research Universities are more focused on academic experience than practical skills. They offer three-year bachelor degrees and are analytical and theoretical, taking students on a specialised path to their chosen subject. Lecturers will tend to have doctorates. University Colleges are similar to US liberal arts colleges, in that they offer a range of subjects in the arts and humanities, and give students the opportunity to take part in small classes and work closely with an academic advisor to formulate a curriculum tailored to their needs. Community is an important value for University Colleges, so they tend to offer a campus-style format and non-academic activities, much like US colleges.

Since they are more academic, the requirements for a Research University are more rigorous than those for Universities of Applied Sciences, and are listed below: 

·       Full IB diploma OR

·       3 academic A-Levels, grades A-C OR

·       Most European secondary school diplomas which give access to university in home country OR

·       American high school diploma + 3-4 APs. Sometimes, a minimum GPA is required.

Requirements for Universities of Applied Sciences are a bit more relaxed; for example, students can apply with the IBCP, and may not require APs of American applicants.

University Colleges will set their own requirements, and, like US universities, will consider extracurricular activities.

Prospective students can go to https://www.studyinnl.org/dutch-education/studies to help search for available programmes of study. They should apply through the Studielink portal, which is open 1 October-1 May. There is an earlier deadline of 15 January for Numerus Fixus, which refers to restricted numbers of places offered in popular programmes like medicine, psychology, and business. Some universities will stay open for rolling admissions after the 1 May deadline, but it is recommended to apply early to ensure accommodation. 

The Netherlands offers a range of options for students in terms of academics and the types of cities where they can study—from historic Amsterdam to architecturally innovative Rotterdam (the second-largest Dutch city). Erasmus University Rotterdam was founded as an institute of business and economics by businessmen working in the port. Erasmus offers thirteen international bachelor’s degree programmes, and students should check individual programmes for their requirements, as they vary programme to programme. The campus has both centralised and non-centralised aspects: there is a mini-city with study areas, a food court, theatre, and other amenities, and from there it is a 15-minute cycle ride to the city centre and businesses across town.

(Library building, Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Many UK students may be more familiar with Amsterdam, where the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences is located. The city itself is safe, centrally located for easy travel to other countries, and English is widely spoken there. However, housing and living costs can be high.

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences is the largest University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, and offers several bachelor’s degrees taught in English. A very diverse study destination, 60% of students are international whilst 40% are Dutch. Good-fit students have an international outlook, are excited about living in Amsterdam and take a critical approach to academics. The university has a double degree programme with Berlin School of Economics and Law, adding to its global appeal.

Leiden University has two campuses--one located in Leiden and the other in The Hague—and 34,000+ students, 6000+ of whom are international. Sixteen English-taught bachelor’s programmes are offered at this research university. Top programmes at the Hague location include governance and politics, social sciences, languages and humanities, archaeology, crisis and security management, and AI. The Leiden campus has expertise in archaeology, cultural studies, art history, and philosophy.

The university also contains Leiden University College , a residential, honours college. It offers six majors: global public health; earth, energy and sustainability; culture, history and sociology; governance, economics, and development; world politics; and international justice. All of these majors can be combined with a minor (a secondary course of study), like at US universities. At Leiden University College, students have university accommodation provided for the first two years, and find their own accommodation for their third year.

Dutch universities have much to offer UK students—a range of locations and learning styles, and the opportunity to study abroad and join a vibrant international student community. By researching options, requirements, and accommodation, you can set yourself up for an amazing opportunity at a Dutch university.

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