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Top 7 Reasons to Study in the Netherlands

By amanda sulivan

Updated September 18, 2021 Updated September 18, 2021

Since I can remember, I always wanted to study abroad as I come from an international background. I was born and raised in Colombia, with a Dutch father and an American mother. I wanted to study abroad in order to complement my knowledge, expand my horizons and encounter new people and cultures.

Taking the challenge of going abroad for my studies meant I really had prepare myself for studying in a new environment away from home, and I spent a lot of time researching the options. In the end I decided to study in the Netherlands because I read a lot of positive reviews about this amazing country and what it has to offer international students. Now that I have been living here for four years, I can totally recommend the choice I made. Maybe the following seven reasons will convince you that the Netherlands is your perfect study destination too…

1. An international and multicultural environment 
international students

Some may ask “Why study in the Netherlands?” But with boat trips on canals and lakes, lazing on beaches, enjoying the view of the woods, a moderate climate and the crossroads where the German, British, French, Chinese and many other cultures meet, others would say “Why not?”

International students from all over the world come to study in the Netherlands. In 2014/15, international students came from a total of 157 different countries, mostly from Germany, China, Belgium, Italy and Spain. Most Dutch universities have international student associations, which help students throughout their studies.  

The Netherlands is also a unique non-Anglophone country, where approximately 95% of locals speak English. This factor makes living, studying, and working in the Netherlands very convenient, comfortable and pleasant for international students. The Netherlands is also very open and tolerant, welcoming everyone to share their opinions and express themselves. This is very much encouraged during your studies.

2. Affordable study costs 

Studying in the Netherlands is not that expensive, compared with other English-speaking countries such as the UK or US. Dutch higher education is subsidized by the government and tuition fees are relatively low. With the country’s renowned standard of education and comparatively low cost of living, studying in the Netherlands will give you true value for money. Annual tuition fees for a degree program or course at a Dutch higher education institution start at approximately €1,900 for EU students and €6,000 for non-EU students, depending on the institution.

Further, if you decide to have a job alongside your studies, you can also declare these expenses, and get some money back from taxes. How cool is that? In addition, many Dutch universities offer grants and scholarships that can reduce or fully cover the tuition fees of study programs.

3. Innovative teaching methods 

The Dutch educational system is of high quality and Dutch universities are acknowledged worldwide for their well-designed, modern courses and facilities. The teaching style focuses on teamwork, which makes it easy for international students in the Netherlands to meet Dutch people as well as other international students.

Dutch universities place a strong emphasis on good personal relations between professors and students. Most tutorials and seminars take place in small groups of around 15-30 students. Most of your coursework will consist of group work, developing not only your academic skills but also your ability to work together as part of a team. Dutch universities include many practical elements in their degree courses. There is a high emphasis on relevant practical experiences, and universities have a lot of partnerships with Dutch companies, as well as international ones.

As well as general universities, there are also universities of applied sciences, which provide more specialized studies. For those who prefer to gain insights into practical issues, a university of applied sciences might be more attractive. These focus more on practical experiences and less on theoretical and research matters.

4. Affordable living expenses 

Compared with other western European locations, the cost of living in the Netherlands is relatively low. From my own experience and from my friends’, you will need between €800 and €1,000 per month. To fund this, you can combine part-time jobs and study finance. If you are a EU student, you can work 32 hours a month and be eligible for a €265 grant and a student OV-Chipkaart for free public transportation either during the week or weekends.

There are many useful websites for students to find student accommodation. I would advise you to start looking for accommodation early, because there is a huge demand. From my experience, if starting studies in September, the best months to start looking for accommodation are May, June and July. Definitely don’t wait until August, as you will end up either finding expensive or low quality rooms.

As a student, you can also get discounts in many bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas. You can get around town easily on a bicycle. This is not only typically Dutch, but also a cheap means of transportation. You should definitely ask for an ISIC Student Card to get many more benefits and discounts.

5. A wide range of degrees taught in English 

The Netherlands is known as the first non-English speaking country in which universities started to design higher education study programs in English, to attract students coming from abroad. More than 2,100 English-taught study programs and courses are available in the Netherlands, covering a broad range of fields, and leading to a bachelor’s, master’s, PhD, diploma or certificate.

It certainly does sound great: high-quality, affordable education offered in many disciplines, in an international, open-minded country. However, Dutch universities do have strict language requirements if you come from a country where English is not the native language. As an international student you are required to take the TOEFL, IELTS or a similar English language test. You should check the university where you are planning to apply, for more details about their requirements.

As I mentioned, the Netherlands is a very international country and very convenient as most people speak English. Nevertheless, I think it’s always valuable to take an introductory Dutch language course to at least pick up the basics, and many universities in the Netherlands offer Dutch languages courses for internationals. You can also use other online resources to find language courses, as well as new cool language apps and dictionaries to ease your stay in the Netherlands.   

6. Excellent opportunities for travel 

The Netherlands is centrally located in Europe and is in easy reach of all major European cities. The Netherlands is often described as the “gateway to Europe”. It takes only about an hour to fly from Amsterdam to Paris, Berlin, Brussels, or London. It also has great connections and accessibility by train to all major European cities.

The Netherlands also has a well-developed and connected transportation system, and various discounts for students make travelling quite affordable. As mentioned, when working 32 hours a month, you can also get a student OV-Chipkaart, which gives you access to free public transportation. This makes it very convenient and cheap to explore the whole country. Further, you will love how easy it is to get around with a bike – the preferred means of transportation of the Dutch, and also the cheapest. You can cycle in peace, confidence and tranquility, as there are dedicated roads for cyclists.

7. Internationally recognized degrees 

The Netherlands has also been recognized as a knowledge center with rich study traditions and well-known universities. Scientific research at Dutch universities is very highly valued at both the national and international level. Education in the Netherlands meets all international standards and is well-reputed worldwide. A diploma from a Dutch university provides an opportunity to start one’s own business and can be very useful in terms of having a successful career in any country of the world.

The most recognized universities in the Netherlands include the University of Amsterdam, Leiden University and Utrecht University. Personally I also recommend Maastricht University (where I am studying for my master’s degree); it is also highly accredited and has a very effective teaching method called project-based learning. This makes you study actively, participate, work in teams and focus on real-life problems.  

This article was originally published in October 2015 . It was last updated in September 2021

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Written by

Amanda comes from an international background, born in Bogotá, Colombia, with a Dutch father and American mother. She has a strong passion for traveling, languages and horseback riding, and speaks English, Spanish and Dutch. Having completed a bachelor in business administration, she is currently studying a master's in strategic marketing in Maastricht, the Netherlands. 

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