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Home Education Higher Education Universities in the Netherlands
Last update on 01/12/2022
Valentine Sergon Written by Valentine Sergon

The Netherlands is home to some of the world’s top universities. Learn all about the different subjects available at Dutch institutions.

Studying in another country can be a unique and exciting insight into another culture. Dutch universities are among the best in the world, and many programs welcome international students. However, if you decide to move from abroad to study in the Netherlands, you’ll need to navigate a new educational landscape. Read on to get to know various universities in the Netherlands, from highly ranked schools to specialty fields.

Below, you’ll find the following:

Studying in the Netherlands

Attending universities in the Netherlands means understanding a unique educational system that splits its students into three different tracks, beginning at age 12. These are:

  1. Preparatory vocational secondary education (vmbo) – this education lasts four years. After completing this level, students can continue to study specific vocational programs (mbo).
  2. Senior general secondary education (havo) – this lasts five years. Students who complete havo can then enroll at a university of applied sciences (hbo). These tend to be practical, professional programs of study and usually include work experience.
  3. University preparatory education (vwo) – students who complete all six years of vwo can go on to study at research universities (wo). These are usually geared toward students who want to continue to graduate study.

Studying in the Netherlands generally means enrolling at a university of applied sciences or a research university. The Netherlands is an incredibly popular study destination, in part because many universities offer programs in English. In the 2021 academic year, 40% of first-years were international students.

Unfortunately, one of the major challenges when studying as an international student in the Netherlands is finding accommodation. It’s a good idea to start looking early, as university accommodation fills up fast, and many cities have a shortage – some institutions even discourage international students from coming to the country if they have not found a place to live beforehand.

Universities in the Netherlands

Globally, universities in the Netherlands are very popular – in fact, in 2018, the Netherlands hosted the fourth largest number of international students compared to its European neighbors. There are 43 universities of applied silences and 13 research universities in the Netherlands, most of which receive government funding. That said, fees vary depending on whether you are an EU citizen and which program you choose.

Most of these universities offer bachelor’s programs, which usually take three to four years to complete. They also offer master’s programs, which typically take one to two years to complete. Doctoral programs are also widely available and can take three to five years to complete. The country also hosts some private universities and institutes, but these are neither government-funded nor government-approved – they also have more freedom to set higher prices.

Best universities in the Netherlands

The Netherlands hosts some top-tier academic institutions. In fact, among the 1,500 universities surveyed in the 2023 QS World Rankings, two Dutch universities were in the top 100, and seven were in the top 200.

5. Leiden University

Located in the South Holland town of Leiden, Leiden University ranks 131st globally. A public research university, Leiden offers bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. courses. The university has seven faculties and ranks especially high in archaeology, classics, anthropology, history, politics, international studies, and law. Notable alumni include René Descartes (French philosopher), Rembrandt (Dutch Golden Age painter), and Mark Rutte (Prime Minister of the Netherlands). Around 5,000 international students study at Leiden University.

A red-brick entrance and gateway at Leiden University

4. Wageningen University & Research

Located in the small town of Wageningen, Wageningen University & Research ranks 124th worldwide. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. options. Their programs tend to center around food technology, environmental and animal sciences, and soil, water, and atmosphere studies. Notable alumni include Jeroen Dijsselbloem (retired politician and economist), Qu Dongyu (Director-General of Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations), and Emma Oosterwegel (Dutch Olympian). Almost a quarter of the student body is international.

A brown university building behind a pond

3. Utrecht University

Nestled in the quaint yet bustling city of Utrecht, Utrecht University ranks 112th in the world. The university offers bachelor’s programs as well as master’s and Ph.D.s in subjects such as law, media studies, life sciences, and more. Utrecht alumni include Princess Irene (Dutch Royal Family), Willem Einthoven (inventor of the EKG), and Femke Halsema (mayor of Amsterdam). About 16% of the university population is international.

A nineteenth-century Dutch university building, red brick with white trim, two stories tall.
Photo: PHAS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

2. Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) is located in the city of Delft and ranks 61st globally. Students can attend at the bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. level. Most TU Delft programs are in the STEM field, with programs such as engineering, industrial design, and nanobiology. Alumni include Abdul Qadeer Khan (nuclear physicist) and Prince Friso (Dutch Royal Family). About one-fifth of the TU Delft student body is international.

Modern concrete building at TU Delft, like an upside-down pyramid.
Photo: Anant Chandra/Unsplash

Best university in the Netherlands – Amsterdam

The University of Amsterdam (UvA), located in the heart of Amsterdam, ranks 58th worldwide. The UvA offers bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. programs. It ranks top in the QS World University Rankings and ARWU rankings for Communication Science and Media Studies and also scores highly in Dentistry, Sociology, Psychology, and Political Science.

A modern university building over a canal
Photo: Frans Ruiter/Unsplash

Its alumni include Charles Michel (president of the European Council), Guido van Rossum (creator of Python program), and Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau (Dutch Royal Family). International students form almost one-third of the student body.

Specialist universities in the Netherlands

For those who have educational specialties, there are a few good universities in the Netherlands. Although many of these programs are taught (at least partly) in English, it’s still a good idea to pick up some Dutch if you want to use your degree in the country. For a start, you will have more options for further study, and you’ll likely be working in a Dutch-speaking environment after graduation.

Medical schools in the Netherlands

Some of the best medical schools in the Netherlands include:

Business schools in the Netherlands

If you are looking for a business school, here are some solid options:

Law schools in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is home to some excellent programs in law, many of which are taught in English. Some of the best law schools offering English-language courses include:

  • Leiden Law School – Leiden ranks 21st in the QS World University Rankings for Law & Legal Studies, putting it in the top spot in the Netherlands. Their bachelor’s degrees are only available in Dutch, but they also provide English-language LL.M./MSc programs in European Law, Public International Law, and a range of advanced master’s degrees.
  • Tilburg University – Achieving top place in the Netherlands in Times Higher Education Law rankings, Tilburg in the south of the Netherlands has a range of English-language courses. They offer a bachelor’s degree in Global Law and multiple master’s programs in International Law.
  • Maastricht University: This university is located in the southern tip of the Netherlands. Maastricht University offers a three-year bachelor’s of law called the European Law School focusing on EU and international law. There are also many master’s degrees available.
  • The Hague University of Applied Sciences: This university offers a four-year Bachelor’s in International and European Law in the Hague.

Universities in the main cities of the Netherlands

Perhaps you already know where you would like to live in the Netherlands. If that’s the case, here are some universities you’ll find in each city.

Universities in Amsterdam

Rotterdam Universities

  • Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) – A highly ranked research university that offers many programs in English.
  • Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences – This university of applied science has a number of English-language programs. Most of these are at an exchange or master’s level. However, there are a small number of English-language bachelors.
  • Codarts Rotterdam – For those interested in music and dance, this institute offers Dutch, Dutch/English, and English programs.

Universities in the Hague

Utrecht Universities

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