Want to study in the Netherlands? Read our guide to find out more...
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. Life in the Netherlands is attractive for students and workers from around the world.
Universities in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is also home to one of the world’s oldest and most highly respected systems of higher education, dating back to the 16th century. The QS World University Rankings® 2014/15 includes 13 universities in the Netherlands, all ranked within the world's top 400, and an impressive six in the global top 100. The nation’s highest ranking institution is the University of Amsterdam, at 50th in the world, with Leiden University and Utrecht University not too far behind, at 75th and 80th respectively.
Combine this high quality with relatively favorable tuition rates and plenty of English language courses (the Dutch are generally known for their fluency in English as a second language) and you can begin to see why some 90,500 international students were studying in the Netherlands in 2012/13.
The top 6 Dutch universities in the QS World University Rankings are:
University of Amsterdam
The University of Amsterdamis the country’s largest higher education institution, with around 30,000 students enrolled. Established in 1632, it is the third oldest university in the Netherlands, and the highest ranked, at 50th in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15. Within Europe, it is the 15th highest ranked, just after Germany’s Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. It teaches undergraduate and graduate programs across a broad spectrum of subjects, with a large selection of English-taught master’s degrees, and a few English-taught bachelor’s degrees.
The oldest university in the Netherlands, Leiden University was founded in 1575 by William I, Prince of Orange, an ancestor of the Netherlands’ monarchy. The institution is currently ranked 2nd in the country and 75th in the world. It is home to about 23,000 students, studying a broad range of subjects from bachelor’s up to PhD level. The university houses more than 40 research institutes and has links with many national and international leaders, including former US President John Adams, two Secretary Generals of NATO, as well as 16 Nobel Prize winners.
Established in 1636, Utrecht University is another of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe. The QS World University Rankings 2014/15 place Utrecht University at 3rd place in the Netherlands and 80th in the world. Currently almost 30,000 students are enrolled across the university’s seven faculties, which makes it one of the largest universities in the Netherlands as well. The university claims 12 Nobel Prize laureates among its former students and staff, alongside 13 Spinoza Prize laureates.
Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)
The country’s oldest and largest public technical university, Delft University of Technology was founded in 1842, and is currently ranked 86th in the world, according to the latest QS World University Rankings. Also known as TU Delft, it teaches about 19,000 students, which focus on engineering disciplines, computer science, mathematics, applied sciences, and policy and management in technology. Prometheus, a figure from Greek mythology, is an important symbol of TU Delft, and his statue stands in the center of the newly renovated Mekelpark campus. In the 2014 QS World University Rankings by Subject, TU Delft places within the global top 10 for chemical engineering.
University of Groningen
The fourth-ranked university in the Netherlands is the University of Groningen , placed joint 90th in the world according to the latest QS World University Rankings. Established in 1614, it was one of the Netherlands’ first few universities, and has a long history of leadership, including hosting the country’s first female student, first female lecturer, the first Dutch astronaut and the first president of the European Central Bank. About 28,000 students are currently enrolled, and like other top universities in the Netherlands, it’s a popular choice for international students.
Erasmus University Rotterdam
The youngest of these top six Dutch universities is Erasmus University Rotterdam. Established in 1913, it is a relatively young higher education institution, but already ranked among the top universities in the world, sharing 90th place with the University of Groningen in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15. It is home to almost 21,000 students, teaching a broad range of subjects. Home to one of the largest medical and trauma centers in the Netherlands, it’s especially well known in the field of medicine, for which it ranks 27th in the world in the 2014 QS World University Rankings by Subject.
Other Dutch universities ranked among the world’s top 400 include: Maastricht University, Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University, Radboud University Nijmegen, VU University Amsterdam, the University of Twenteand Tilburg University.
Studying at master’s or PhD level? Read our graduate-level guide to the Netherlands >