Higher education in Holland is known for its high quality and its international study environment. With more than 2,100 international study programmes and courses, it has the largest offer of English-taught programmes in continental Europe. The Netherlands gets its name from the fact that around a quarter of this small northwestern European nation lies below sea level. Beyond its traditional associations (think windmills, tulips and clogs), it is one of the most developed and wealthy nations in the world, with a largely urban population. One of the most densely populated countries in Europe, it’s known for its tolerant and liberal ethos, and boasts a wealth of great student cities – none of which are more than a bicycle ride (the nation’s preferred mode of transport) away from some picturesque countryside.
Click on the tabs below to find out about top universities in the Netherlands, popular student cities, and how to get started with applications, costs and visas.
A third, smaller branch of higher education is provided by institutes for international education, which offer programmes designed especially for international students.
In 2002 Holland introduced the bachelor’s-master’s degree structure, but the distinction between the two types of education still exists. Both research universities and universities of applied sciences can award a bachelor's or a master's degree.
You first obtain a bachelor’s degree (first cycle), you can then continue to study for a master’s degree (second cycle). After completion of a master’s programme you can start a PhD degree or P Deng degree programme (third cycle).
Proof of English language proficiency
First, you have to contact the international office of the university you are interested in to check whether your degree (obtained in your homeland) is recognised in the Netherlands. Given that your degree is recognised in the Netherlands, you may need: A residence permit if you are not an EU / EEA or Swiss citizen.
Required average scores vary depending on university and major. Also, note that for some programmes, the number of applicants is much higher than that of available places - in this case, a selection procedure takes place.
Intake: Students may be able to start in spring (January – April), summer (May – August) or autumn (September – November).
It is essential that you speak, read and write English well. You must have passed an English language test. IELTS and TOEFL are commonly accepted, but institutions may accept other tests as well, like Cambridge English.
The required scores are at least 550 (paper based) or 213 (internet based) for TOEFL. For IELTS a score of at least 6 is required.
Sometimes you are not yet eligible to the programme of your choice, but with a little extra preparation you could succeed next year!
Ask the Dutch higher education institution of your choice for more information.
There are several ways of applying for a programme.
Check the institution’s website pages for the programme of your choice to find information on the application process. Note that some programmes have a selection procedure and an application deadline of 15 January.
Your institution will send you a notification of acceptance. If you have questions about your acceptance, please contact the institution directly.
Then it comes to tuition fees, you will find on some university websites 2 type of tuitions: Statutory and Institutional. The difference between them is:
As a general rule of thumb, the institutional fee is higher than the statutory fee, because the government offers the university money to subside the statutory fee. I know, it's a lot of bureaucracy behind this, so never take these tuitions personal.
You're more likely to encounter higher costs at private Dutch universities.
Good news! If you are from an EU/EEA country or Suriname and you start studying a Bachelor’s at a public university in the Netherlands in 2018-2019, you will only pay half of the tuition fee in the first year. This means that for the first year of studies your fee will only be 1,030 EUR.
A main condition to be eligible is to not have studied in Netherlands before.
The fee discount also applies to Master’s degrees in Initial Teacher Education, provided that you start a Bachelor’s in Education in 2018-2019.
To enter the Netherlands for study or research purposes, you might need a visa and work permit. EU nationals do not need a visa to stay in the Netherlands or a work permit to work in the Netherlands.
When you enroll in a study programme, your host institution will contact you to start up the application procedure. If not, ask for help by contacting the international office (or if you are a researcher, the HR department) of your host institution.
Although the IND will generally process the application quite fast, we recommend that you start the process early. It may take some time for you to collect all the relevant documents for your institution.
Use our Pathfinder tool to check which procedure applies to you:
Please note: if you are NOT coming to study or to do a preparatory year or exchange programme, you need to check the website of the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) for the requirements.
If you are from the EU/EEA or Switzerland you are free to work without restrictions.
As of 1 July 2018 Croats have the same rights as other EU citizens and no longer need a work permit.
Are you from another country than the ones mentioned above? Then there are some restrictions if you want to take a job beside your studies. You need a permit and you can only work for a maximum of 16 hours a week or, instead, you can work full-time during the summer months of June, July and August.
Your employer needs to apply for your work permit. The organization that issues work permits is called UWV.
If you are studying at a Dutch host institution and you need to do an internship as part of your study programme, you do not need a work permit. Your host institution and your employer do need to sign an internship agreement.
Since April 2017 all international students may perform self-employed work for an unlimited amount of hours, in addition to their studies and part-time job (with a maximum of 16 hours a week). Students do not need to apply for a work permit with UWV for the performance of self-employed work. They do, however, have to register with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel).
You need to be aware that as soon as you pick up a job, you are obliged to take out Dutch basic healthcare insurance. This obligation also applies to students that are self-employed. If you do not meet this requirement you risk a huge fine.
BSN is short for Burger Service Number, which translates as ‘citizen service number’. The BSN is equivalent to a social security number: a unique registration number for every citizen, used in contacts with any government service.
Various people may ask for your BSN. If you have a job, your employer will need to know your BSN. Insurance companies may also ask for your BSN-number.
When registering with your local municipality, you are automatically issued a BSN. Your local town hall will most likely send you a letter to confirm all your personal details listed in their administration. This letter will also mention your BSN.
You are required to pay tax over your total Dutch income for the year. Scholarships may also be counted as income and added to the total. For more information on income tax, you can check with your employer or directly.