Study in the Netherlands: Dutch university education

Study in the Netherlands: Dutch university education

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A guide to the Dutch higher education system which includes universities of applied sciences (hogescholen) and universities (universiteit) in the Netherlands.

Foreigners looking to study in the Netherlands will find a wide range of Dutch universities and education institutions offering international degree programmes, as well as many courses in English. Information on studying in the Netherlands is easily found in English on government portals, and Dutch universities offer help for foreign students to arrange their move to Netherlands. 

Higher education and Dutch universities

Third-level education, as it is known in the Netherlands, is offered at a vocational level (HBO, a ‘university of applied sciences’ or hogeschool) and at an academic level (WO, at a universiteit). Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are available at both HBO and WO institutions, but only universities (WO) offer PhD programs. There is a small, third branch of higher education offering international education in the Netherlands (IE), comprising advanced courses suited to international students, plus various other institutions offer international programmes and short courses.

There are around 2,000 courses taught in English. You can see what’s available on Nuffic (Netherlands organisation for international cooperation in higher education; www.nuffic.nll), which includes extensive information about the Dutch higher education system. 

Institutions are either government funded or government approved. There are also privately financed institutions that are not recognised. NVAO is the organistion that accredits institutions (www.nvao.net).

Dutch universities of applied sciences (HBO)

In 2015, around 440,000 students were enrolled at 37 ‘universities of applied sciences’ or hogescholen, which provide practical-based programs lasting four years. Students can prepare for particular professions in one of seven sectors: agriculture, engineering and technology, economics and business administration, healthcare, fine and performing arts, education/teacher training and social welfare.

For more information visit www.hbo-raad.nl, or check the government's full list of Dutch universities of applied sciences.

Dutch research universities (WO)

In 2015 there were 14 research universities offering international degrees and short courses, with students involved in intensive, academic studies:


For more information, visit www.studyin.nl.

Not all universities offer undergraduate degrees in English across all subjects (University of Groningen and Maastricht University offer the most), while postgraduate qualifications are more commonly taught in English.

Costs of studying in the Netherlands

Fees depend on your nationality and age. There’s a fee for EU/EEA nationals, which is set by the Dutch government, and tuition fee loans are available. Otherwise you pay the institutional fee (up to 10 times more). The fees at private institutions can be substantially higher.

How to apply to Dutch higher education

There are more than 90,000 international students studying in the Netherlands — Germany tops the international student list — and information on fees, qualifications and study programmes is widely available in English. Students should first contact the institution offering the course, which will specify what education qualifications are required for admission. A quota system is in place for oversubscribed courses; places are allocated by a lottery. At www.studielink.nl you can apply online for third-level courses that are subsidised by the Dutch Ministry of Education.

University programmes consist of a Bachelor’s or undergraduate phase lasting three years and a Master’s or graduate phase lasting one to two years. Many Dutch universities have partner institutions in other countries, so students can study part of their course abroad.

Qualification accreditation by Dutch authorities

Diplomas and certificates awarded overseas need to be accredited by the Dutch authorities. Often the school where you have applied takes care of this. If not, the IDW Internationale Diplomawaardering (www.idw.nl) offers this service for a fee.

Non-native English speakers are required to pass an English language test at a specified level, most commonly the TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge Test.

More information on studying in the Netherlands

Education links


International education and courses

Below is a list of research universities that offer international degree programmes and short courses:


Information on the Dutch education system


International schools

Educaide: The Professional Helpdesk for International Education in the Netherlands
T: +31 (0) 65 598 8998 (contact: Willemijn van Oppen-Stuyt) | info@educaide.nl | www.educaide.nl

More information

For more information on student life in the Netherlands, visit our Higher education section, or read about grants and scholarships. Students will find essential information about living, studying and working in the Netherlands as well as the tools to build up a new social network. 


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Updated 2016.

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