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
- Universities in the Netherlands
- Best universities in the Netherlands
- Specialist universities in the Netherlands
- Universities in the main cities of the Netherlands
- Useful resources
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:
- Preparatory vocational secondary education (vmbo) – this education lasts four years. After completing this level, students can continue to study specific vocational programs (mbo).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the best medical schools in the Netherlands include:
- University of Amsterdam – located in the southeast of Amsterdam, this is one of the leading international centers in academic medicine.
- Vrije University in Amsterdam – consistently ranked among the top 100–150 universities, this medical school is situated in the south of Amsterdam.
- Erasmus University Rotterdam – Erasmus MC is located near the center of Rotterdam.
If you are looking for a business school, here are some solid options:
- Nyenrode Business School – this private university is located in Amsterdam and Breukelen, just over half an hour by train from Utrecht.
- Rotterdam School of Management – a part of Erasmus University, this business school is located in Rotterdam.
- Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences – this university is located in Apeldoorn, about an hour east of Amsterdam.
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.
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.
- University of Amsterdam – a prestigious research university with many English courses that will cater to expat students.
- Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – a university of applied sciences fit for students seeking specialized programs.
- Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences – this applied science university offers a few English-language programs.
- 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
- The Hague University of Applied Sciences – This university of applied science offers a number of English-language courses that might interest expats.
- Hotelschool The Hague – This prestigious school is ideal for those looking to thrive in the hospitality sector.
- Royal Academy of Art – The Royal Academy of Art is a great choice for the artistically minded. It offers programs in English.
- University of Utrecht – This research university offers many bachelor’s, master’s, and exchange programs in English.
- University of Applied Sciences Utrecht – This university of applied science offers just a few full programs in English but has many options for exchange students.