This guide explains everything you need to study in the Netherlands: the top Dutch universities, Netherlands scholarships and universities in the Netherlands for international students.
Foreigners looking to study in the Netherlands will find a wide range of Dutch universities and education institutions offering international degree programmes. Many of the Netherlands’ universities offer undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in English.
Information on studying in the Netherlands is easily found in English on government portals, and universities in the Netherlands typically offer help for foreign students to arrange their move and Dutch student visa. In any case, foreign students will find no shortage of guidance or courses to study in the Netherlands for international students.
Foreigners who graduate from a university in the Netherlands – as well as foreigners who graduate from any of the world’s top 200 universities in the last three years – can apply for a special Dutch visa to look for work for up to one year, known as the graduate ‘orientation year’ Dutch permit.
This guide explains what you need to study in the Netherlands at either a university of applied sciences (hogescholen) or research university (universiteit) in the Netherlands:
- Netherlands universities and Dutch higher education system
- Types of universities in the Netherlands
- Dutch university fees and costs of studying in the Netherlands
- Scholarships in the Netherlands
- How to apply to study in the Netherlands
- Getting a foreign degree accredited
- Subjects to study in the Netherlands
- Useful links for studying in the Netherlands
- Universities in the Netherlands for international students
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 Dutch 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 that offer international programmes and short courses to study in the Netherlands.
There are more than 2,100 courses taught in English (search programmes here), offered at almost all universities in the Netherlands for international students. You can see what’s available to study in the Netherlands on EpNuffic (Netherlands organisation for international cooperation in higher education), which includes extensive information about the Netherlands’ university system plus lists of universities in the Netherlands in English.
The Netherlands’ universities and 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.com).
In 2016, more than 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.
Research Dutch universities (WO)
In 2016 there were 13 research universities in the Netherlands offering international degrees and short courses, with some 240,000 students involved in intensive, academic studies in 12 different cities (Amsterdam has two universities). For more information, visit www.studyinholland.nl.
Dutch universities typically peform well in global rankings, with all 13 ranked in the top 200 of Times Higher Education‘s World University Rankings, including eight in the top 100 universities in the world. Below is a list of all the Netherlands’ universities, in order of their THE ranking.
Universities in the Netherlands for international students
In QS University Rankings, all Dutch universities ranked in the top 350 with eight ranked among the top 150 universities in the world. The top Dutch universities in their list were , Delft University of Technology, , and
All universities in the Netherlands teach more than 40 English undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, while Leiden University and Amsterdam of University teach more than 100 courses in English. However, 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.
Dutch university fees depend on your nationality and age, besides what you choose to study in the Netherlands. There are special Dutch university fees for EU/EEA nationals, which are set by the Dutch government, and tuition fee loans or Dutch scholarships are available. Otherwise you pay the institutional Dutch university fees (up to 10 times more). The fees at private institutions can be substantially higher.
As examples, annual Dutch university fees for EU students start from around EUR 1,950, while the average Dutch university fees for non-EU students studying Bachelor’s programmes sit between EUR 6,000 and EUR 15,000 and for Master’s programmes between EUR 8,000 and EUR 20,000. On the government’s Studyfinder you can search all English courses and the cost per course depending on your nationality.
Additional student costs of living in the Netherlands are estimated at around EUR 800–1,100 per month, although many student discounts are offered in musuems, cinemas, bars and restaurants.
Provided you meet the conditions, there are many options for scholarships in the Netherlands which you can see in this guide to grants and scholarships in the Netherlands. You can also find an extensive list of Nuffic scholarships, or use the government’s search tool to find a range of the Netherlands’ scholarships available. If a scholarship doesn’t apply, read other ways to finance your studies in the Netherlands.
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 to study in the Netherlands for international students.
A quota system is in place for oversubscribed courses; places are allocated by a lottery. At www.studielink.nl you can apply online for university courses that are subsidised by the Dutch Ministry of Education.
Health insurance is also compulsory in the Netherlands, although it will depend on your situation and nationality as to which health insurance cover you must get. Read more about health insurance for students in the Netherlands.
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.
Diplomas and certificates awarded abroad need to be accredited by the Dutch authorities before you can study in the Netherlands. 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. Find a list of language schools in the Netherlands.
According to the Dutch university and college guide Keuze Studiegids, dentistry was the most lucrative subject to study in the Netherlands, while students graduating in history of art and cultural studies were the least likely to find work with a decent wage, with some 15 percent earning below EUR 900 a month. Degrees in cultural anthropology, environmental sciences and international law also lead to low earnings; many international law graduates, for example, end up at NGOs where salaries are structurally low. Reportedly, however, new graduates find it easiest to find jobs in the Netherlands with a high salary.
The Netherlands’ universities and higher education
- Higher education in the Netherlands: www.studyin.nl, www.nuffic.nl
- Portals for vocational training: www.s-bb.nl, www.mboraad.nl
- Masters/PhDs: www.mastersportal.eu, www.phdportal.eu
- Information on studying and funding: www.duo.nl
- Online applications: www.studielink.nl
- Non-Dutch diploma evaluation: www.idw.nl
- Foundation for International Education in the Netherlands: www.sio.nl
Below is a full list of research universities that offer international degree programmes and short courses where foreigners can study in the Netherlands in English:
Dutch universities and education policies
- Ministry of Education, Culture and Science: www.government.nl/ocw
- Government policy: www.government.nl/education
- Eurydice: eacea.ec.europa.eu
Student life and studying in the Netherlands
Students can find essential information about living, studying and working in the Netherlands on Expatica, as well as the tools to build up a new social network.
Read more about student life and studying in the Netherlands:
- Guide to Dutch student visas and permits
- How to find student accommodation in Amsterdam
- Health insurance guide for international students in the Netherlands