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Everything you need to know about studying in the Netherlands

Have you considered studying abroad at a Dutch university? Learn about higher education in the Netherlands and how to apply as an international student

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Joy Hunter

Student content curator
August 13 2021
Everything you need to know about studying in the Netherlands


Studying abroad in the Netherlands is becoming increasingly popular among international students and it’s easy to see why.

There is an array of world-leading universities to choose from, lots of courses are taught in English and the cost of studying in the Netherlands as an international student tends to be lower than in the US and UK.

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Most of the Dutch population live in the country’s beautiful cities such as Amsterdam, Delft, Rotterdam and Eindhoven, all of which have thriving student communities. Whether you fancy wandering along Amsterdam’s canals or spending a weekend at Rotterdam’s jazz festival, there’s something for everyone in the Netherlands. 

The Netherlands also has beautiful countryside, which is often only a bike ride (the Dutch transport mode of choice) away from the city.

If you’re considering studying abroad in the Netherlands, doing your research into applications, costs and visas can be just as daunting as it is exciting. See below for our guide on everything you need to know about studying in the Netherlands.

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What kind of universities are there in the Netherlands?

Universities in the Netherlands are largely state-funded and are split into two categories: research universities and universities of applied sciences.

In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 13 universities in the Netherlands feature among the top 250. These universities are spread across 12 cities.

Within the country’s universities, there are several affiliated university colleges. Inspired by the college system found at institutions such as the University of Oxford and Harvard University, university colleges usually offer multidisciplinary degrees in liberal arts and sciences within a small-scale college community.

There are also several private universities, including the Protestant Theological University, Theological University of Kampen and Nyenrode Business University.

How do you apply to study abroad in the Netherlands?

To apply to most Dutch universities, you must go through a centralised application system called Studielink. Once you’ve made a Studielink account and entered your personal details, you can then submit applications to your chosen universities. This process is free.

International students are often advised to contact the individual universities they’re applying to, as most non-residents will need a university to confirm their identity through the Studielink system before they can enrol. For Dutch residents, this is done automatically.

Entry requirements for Dutch universities are comparatively low, and any conditional offers made will usually be on the basis of passing your exams instead of achieving a specific grade. That said, the first year of most undergraduate courses in the Netherlands is seen as a kind of probation year and you will be examined regularly. Lower entry requirements don’t mean an easy course, it’s just a different approach to admissions than in most other countries.

You can apply for up to four courses at a time through Studielink, but only two can be subject to Numerus Fixus – a system of limiting places on oversubscribed courses in the Netherlands. Places are then allocated on a lottery basis. There is a centralised lottery organised through Studielink, as well as a decentralised lottery run by individual universities.

Most courses taught in English in the Netherlands are not subject to Numerus Fixus, apart from certain subjects such as medicine and law. Numerus Fixus can be somewhat complicated so it’s best to contact your chosen institution directly for advice on how it works for any courses you’re interested in.

If you’re applying to a university college, the selection process will be stricter and you’ll most likely be asked to attend an interview as part of your application. 

When should you apply to study in the Netherlands?

University admissions in the Netherlands usually open in the first week of October for courses beginning in the following academic year. Sometimes there is the option to begin courses in the spring semester, but this is uncommon for courses taught in English.

The deadline for applications to most courses is usually 1 April for non-European Union nationals, and 1 May for EU nationals, but there are exceptions so it’s best to check your university’s website or contact them directly to be sure. Courses subject to Numerus Fixus tend to have an earlier deadline of 15 January.

If you’re applying to a university college, there also tends to be a January deadline to make time for interviews in February.

Are courses in the Netherlands taught in English or Dutch?

University courses in the Netherlands are taught in both English and Dutch. 

If you are a non-native speaker applying for a course taught in English, most Dutch universities will require you to prove your English proficiency with a test such as the TOEFL or IELTS Academic. You can use this guide to help decide which English language test is best for you. Specific score requirements will depend on your university and course, so get in touch directly for the right information.

How much does it cost to study in the Netherlands?

Tuition fees in the Netherlands are comparatively low, but do depend on where you’re from, the university you attend and which course you study.

For EU residents, 2021-2022 tuition fees are €1,084 for the first year of your course, and €2,168 per year for all other years, including postgraduate. EU citizens are also automatically eligible for a tuition fee loan from the Dutch government, known as Collegegeldkrediet, and are allowed to pay their fees in monthly instalments.

For undergraduate students outside the EU, annual fees range from about €8,000 for most arts subjects, to about €12,000 per year for science subjects, €14,000 for liberal arts programmes and up to €32,000 a year for medicine. You cannot pay in monthly instalments as a non-EU student, and you must pay a deposit towards your tuition fees as part of your visa conditions.

Non-EU students can apply for the Holland Scholarship, which offers up to €5,000 in the first year of study.

Postgraduate courses for non-EU students at Dutch universities tend to cost between €8,500 and €10,500 a year, with the more expensive courses usually at private universities or institutions of applied science.

You’ll also have to consider the cost of living in the Netherlands. Rent could set you back between €350 and €800 per month depending on the kind of accommodation and location you choose. Most Dutch universities have some form of student accommodation, usually in the form of shared apartments with self-catering, or university college halls.

Food might cost you about €180 per month and you’ll also have to budget for your lifestyle, social life and study materials. Many students travel by bicycle since Dutch cities are bike-friendly, so this is another cost to consider. 

How do you apply for a student visa for the Netherlands?

After you receive your acceptance letter from a Dutch university, they will contact you to begin your visa application. They should inform you when it has been approved by the Immigration Service, after which you can find your closest Dutch embassy or consulate and apply for your entry visa (MVV). Once you’re in the Netherlands you’ll need to convert this to a residence permit (VVR) or Dutch Study Visa.

If you’re from the EU, EEA, Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, South Korea or the US, you do not need an MMV to study in the Netherlands. You’ll only need your host university to register you with immigration before you arrive and apply for your VVR at a cost of €210.

To apply for your VVR, you’ll need your passport, enrolment letter confirming your admission to your host university, and proof of sufficient funds to support your studies (usually about €870 per month of study).

If you’re from the People’s Republic of China, you must obtain a Nuffic Certificate to verify your language proficiency and qualifications to be eligible for an entry visa. This does not apply to nationals from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.


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