A Guide to Higher Education in Netherlands
Given the hefty cost of car insurance in the Netherlands, bicycles are the preferred mode of transport for many students. So it shouldn’t be too hard to make the transition to life in the Netherlands, where the biking culture is so strong almost half of all journeys are made by bike. An abundance of English-language degrees means that course options are almost unlimited.
- Universities in the Netherlands are state-funded and are split into two categories: research universities and universities of applied sciences. There are 14 research universities and 41 universities of applied sciences in the country. The former offer more research-intensive education, while the latter are focused on preparing students for a particular professional field.
- In addition to the state-subsidized institutions, there are also a number of private universities and university colleges.
- Dutch universities are popular among international students, with over 80,000 studying higher education in the country at present. More than 1,500 courses are taught entirely in English, ranging from short training seminars to Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs.
- Four universities in the Netherlands are ranked in the Top 100 of the 2012 QS World University Rankings, with the University of Amsterdam highest at number 62. Leiden University is next at 75, followed by Utrecht University (85) and Erasmus University Rotterdam (99).
To enter the Netherlands for study purposes, you might need a visa and/or a residence permit.
Whether you need a visa or not, depends on:
Your nationality – as stated on your passport.
The duration of your stay: shorter or longer than three months.
Your purpose of stay
When you enroll in a study program, your host institution will contact you to start up the application procedure. If not, ask for help by contacting the department dealing with international student mobility. Usually this will be the institution’s international office. There are two different methods for applying to Dutch universities. In some cases you apply directly to the institution you wish to study at, while in other cases you need to apply via a centralized application system called Studielink. You should contact the university you want to study at in the first case to find out which method they use.
A residence permit will generally be issued for the duration of your study programme, provided that you obtain 50% of your study credits every year.
Within five days of your arrival in the Netherlands your host institution has to apply for a residence permit on your behalf. If you are staying in the Netherlands for more than four months you will need to go to the city council and register as a new resident of the town where you are living.
Annual tuition fees are about €1,700 for EU students on undergraduate courses, although fees are higher at private universities and university colleges.
- Loans are available to cover the full cost of annual tuition and these are paid in 12 monthly installments. You must begin repaying these two years after graduation regardless of your location or income.
- If you can find a job working at least 32 hours per month and you are aged below 30, you are eligible for a Dutch government non-repayable grant of €266 per month. But it may be more of a struggle to find work if you don’t have at least basic Dutch language skills and the grant is not available until you’ve been in a job for at least three months. There are also some additional means-tested and top-up loans available to those in part-time employment.
- There are a limited number of scholarship opportunities for foreign students, many of which are administered by Nuffic, a Dutch non-profit organization that aims to foster international cooperation in higher education.
Living costs are comparable and student discounts are available in many places. Typical prices include:
- Meal in an inexpensive restaurant: £11
- One-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam: £915
- One way local bus ticket: £2.40
- Pint of domestic beer: £3
- A dozen eggs: £1.60
If you are going to the Netherlands solely for study purposes, you will be able to access medical treatment using your European Health Insurance Card. If you’re planning to work part-time or in an internship during your stay you will need to take out additional Dutch public healthcare insurance. Many universities have access to discounted rates so ask your institution for a recommendation.
The Netherlands is generally considered to be a very safe country but there is a risk of petty crime such as pick pocketing and theft, particularly in major cities such as Amsterdam.
Most students in the Netherlands live in shared student housing, just as they do in the United Kingdom. The size of such houses varies but most are shared by four of five students. The rent in shared houses typically costs between EUR 300 and EUR 450 a month, depending on size, location and furnishing. Some cities have real shortages of student accommodation, for example Utrecht is often seen as quite difficult to find accommodation, particularly at short notice. In Amsterdam there are approximately 75,000 students meaning that there is a lot more competition for accommodation than in smaller cities.
Universities in Netherlands will often help you find a room. However, the provision of university accommodation varies dramatically from institution to institution so it may not always be possible to spend all of your first year in a hall of residence. The more time you allow to arrange your accommodation, the more likely it is you will find something that suits your requirements. In general, as long as you are in contact with the university’s housing office by the May before a September start, you shouldn’t experience any difficulty in any city. Some cities are really easy even up to the last minute.
Many Dutch universities negotiate with private landlords on behalf of students. In effect they rent a block of rooms and then sub-let them to students, meaning that you only have to deal with the university housing office. Dutch universities usually decide how many rooms they will need for the forthcoming academic year in June. If you apply for housing after this time you may not be able to find anything through this channel.
The housing office at a Dutch university will often charge for its services (in the case of Groningen this is currently EUR 300) but this does guarantee you will receive the offer of a room. Once you have been living in the Netherlands for a while you will probably have no need of such a service but in our experience, British students who have moved to the Netherlands are usually glad that they took advantage of this service. Those students who didn’t use the Housing Office have often had difficulties with accommodation but nothing too serious.