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Last update on February 17, 2020

Students can study at a variety of universities in Amsterdam. Expatica provides a guide to studying in Amsterdam for foreign students, from where to study to finding housing.

A university degree or a ‘third level education’ as it is known in the Netherlands is obtainable at various universities in Amsterdam. Expatica’s guide to higher education for foreign students in Amsterdam covers where to study, student life, housing and money.

Most expats end up going home for university, but there are some places that offer courses in English. Amsterdam and surrounding cities in the Netherlands have some universities that are popular with foreign students, although there tends to be more non-English speakers than English speakers. For students who have been through the Dutch schooling system, qualification for entry to a university include a HAVO certificate, a pre-university certificate, a pre-university certificate, VWO or a middle-management or specialist training certificate. For more information   pay a visit to these organisations’ websites – www.nuffic.nl or www.ib-groep.nl – which can help you further in your choice of universities in the Netherlands.

Most Dutch universities now offer bilingual education and many MBA programmes are offered solely in English. Educaide (www.educaide.nl), an advice office helps parents, students, teachers, schools, and authorities on a wide range of issues pertaining to international and bilingual education in the Netherlands.

ACCESS a volunteer organisation in Amsterdam, helps foreigners with any number of issues relating to settling in the area, and are knowledgeable about the education system – www.access-nl.org. University tuition fees are very low for Dutch students; however MBA, PhD and Master’s degrees cost much more. Students under the age of 30 pay a minimal tuition of less than EUR 5,000 per year plus expenses for books. Most students do not live on campus because accommodation is expensive. Many rent rooms in the city of the university or live at home. Unless studying engineering or IT technology, music, agriculture or a very specific line of education, most pupils do not venture to another city for their continued education, sticking close to home.

In 1984 the Open University was founded for adult education without admission requirements. It offers HBO and university courses. Studielink (www.studielink.nl) is one-stop-shop for admissions and registration to any university. Students seeking housing accommodation can visit kamernet.nl.

An overview of student life in the Netherlands

Studying abroad is a very appealing thought for those looking to get something extra out of the university experience; the potential for ‘life education’ is huge. Amsterdam is fantastic city in which to live and the Netherlands provides a unique opportunity to experience Europe and its continental lifestyle. The political openness here creates lively public debate and the high number of English-speaking residents’ means that those interested can stay informed and, should they wish, get involved. However, you may find that certain aspects of Dutch life don’t agree with you, so make sure you do you research about the country first. For information on being an international student in the Netherlands, visit the site for ‘international co-operation in higher education’ (www.nuffic.nl/international-students).

There is massive active student population and many organisations to help international students settle in. The International Student Network Amsterdam (isn-amsterdam.nl) and International Student Meeting Point Amsterdam (www.isma-amsterdam.org) are two great sources of information about how to prepare yourself for studying in the Netherlands.

Where to study in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has two major universities that offer a huge array of bachelor’s and master’s courses. The Universiteit van Amsterdam (www.uva.nl) and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (www.fpp.vu.nl), both offer courses for international students. Between the two of them they have over 40,000 students. In a city the size of Amsterdam that’s pretty massive and you can definitely feel the student vibe throughout the city. The UvA has many locations through the centre of Amsterdam and first opened doors in 1632 under the name Athenaeum Illustre. It is highly respected and well-connected university. VU is only slightly smaller than the UvA but no less prestigious. It opened its doors in 1880 as the first Protestant university and this heritage holds some influence over tuition, bringing with it an emphasis on social issues. The university grounds are situated just outside of Amsterdam centre, in the Buitenveldt area. It is easily accessible by bus, train and metro.

Student housing in Amsterdam

Finding somewhere to live will be your biggest challenge in Amsterdam. August and September are particularly difficult months to find accommodation as so many students are coming to the city to begin their studies. You may want to start looking well in advance of your arrival. If your course can provide with contact details of other students, consider getting in touch with them and pooling resources. There are several student accommodation resources you can begin to investigate before you arrive. De key works in conjunction with the universities to locate accommodation. Your university will probably subscribe for you; for more information visit the website www.shortstay.dekey.nl.

Study in the Netherlands
An example of converted shipping containers used for student accommodation in the Netherlands

There is also a renters’ support association that provides a great deal of information about how to rent in Amsterdam, what to expect, and a list of support services for students (www.huurders.info). Unfortunately there are a lot of people who may try and take advantage of those looking for reasonable accommodation so it’s advisable to go through a recommended agency like those on the support site.

Students’ money matters

Amsterdam is not a cheap city but you should be able to get by on around EUR 1,000 a month providing you find reasonable accommodation. Depending on the type of visa you are eligible for, you may able to pick up some part-time work to make ends meet. You should definitely apply for international student ID card as well as your university card. With these cards you will able to get discounts for entry into museums, some restaurants, cinemas and youth hostels.Visit the Dutch national rail website (www.ns.nl) or go in person to the train station, to see which discounts you can get on travel, even if don’t qualify as a ‘student’. Plus, check out the OV-chipkaart website (www.ov-chipkaart.nl) to see what discounts you qualify for. There are also many cafes and restaurants located around the universities that offer inexpensive food.