The Netherlands

Live & Study in The Netherlands

It might not be the first name on everyone’s list, but the Netherlands is one of the world’s unsung study abroad gems. Read our guide to find out more…

The country gets its name from the fact that around a quarter of this small north western European nation lies below sea level.

Despite its associations with windmills and clogs, it is one of the most developed and wealthy nations in the world, with a largely urban population (it is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe).

It is also home to one of the world’s oldest – dating back to the 16th century – and most highly respected systems of higher education. The 2012/13 QS World University Rankings include 13 Dutch universities – all within the world’s top 500, and an impressive 11 in the top 200.

The nation’s highest ranking institution is the University of Amsterdam at 62, with Leiden University (the country’s oldest institution) and Utrecht University not too far behind, at 75= and 85 respectively.

Combine this 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 nearly 45,000 international students were studying in the Netherlands in 2009.

The nation is 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.

Consider the Netherlands if you’re looking for a European study destination which offers you a little bit of everything.

Facts about The Netherland:


  • Constitutional parliamentary monarchy with bicameral legislature, headed by prime minister
  • Around the same size as Switzerland (smaller than the US state of West Virginia)
  • Population is estimated to reach 16,730,632 by July 2012
  • Borders Belgium, Germany and the North Sea
  • Part of the Benelux economic union along with Belgium and Luxembourg
  • Capital city is Amsterdam, but The Hague is the seat of government (and the International Courts of Justice)
  • Campus accommodation is extremely scarce in the Netherlands, and competition for housing can be fierce in major cities, so you’re advised to start looking early
  • Official language is Dutch
  • One of the world’s top 25 economies
  • One of the flattest countries in the world; the highest point is only 321 meters above sea level
  • The Netherlands boasts 15,000km (9,320 miles) of bicycle tracks – and this is a conservative estimate
  • Dutch people are the tallest in Europe, on average
  • Currency is Euro, symbol: €, €1 = US$1.35
  • Uses Central European Time (UTC+1) switching to UTC+2 in summer
  • International dialing code is +31
Life Style in The Netherland:



Placed at 36th in the 2012 QS Best Student Cities ranking, Amsterdam is famed for its café culture, its leafy canals, and for the nightlife which makes it a favorite for party loving holiday-makers and students. However, that is not to say there aren’t more refined attractions on offer, such as its stunning historical architecture and world class museums.

And, let’s not forget, it boasts the country’s highest ranking university, Universiteit van Amsterdam (62 in the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings). But, Amsterdam isn’t one of those cities which need to be sold. Study here and you certainly won’t find yourself short of visitors from back home…


Leiden is one of those towns dominated by its university, the attendees of which account for a large percentage of its population. Leiden University, ranked 75= in the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings, is the oldest in the country having been founded in 1575.

John Quincy Adams, René Descartes and Albert Einstein, among others, all passed through its doors. Leiden itself is a small picturesque town, though the large student population means there is no shortage of social activities on offer.


Utrecht, claims the Lonely Planet Guide, is one of the world’s unsung places. It is a charming canal-veined historical town, with one of the oldest centers in the country. The countryside in the province which shares the city’s name is famously beautiful, as well being peppered with castles and palaces.

Like many other Dutch cities, Utrecht itself is student dominated, and accordingly, the city is known for its nightlife. Utrecht University, at 85, is the Netherlands’ third highest ranked university.


Home of Europe’s biggest port, the Netherlands’ second city stands out from the other cities here as result of its distinctly modern feel – the result of damage incurred during the Second World War.

Its daring modern structures, however, more than make up this. It is also famous for its music (particularly electronic), its nightlife and its multicultural social milieu. Erasmus University Rotterdam, named after city’s most famous son, is ranked 99th in the world.


Located towards the country’s southern border, Maastricht is known for being slightly different. It is one of the oldest – if not the oldest city in the country – and resultantly boasts some impressive historical architecture.

Its university (Maastricht University) is one of the most internationalized in the country, with over a third of its students coming from overseas, putting it just outside the top 10 in the world in this regard (its overall rank in the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings is 107).

Maastricht is also recommended for gastronomes, renowned as it is for being the culinary capital of the Netherlands.

Admissions, entry and visa requirements

There are two systems for applying to university in the Netherlands – directly to the institution or through Studielink, an online centralized application procedure. Which one you need depends on the university and the course to which you are applying. You may even be required to use a combination of the two, so check carefully with the institution.

Certain oversubscribed courses in the Netherlands are deemed numerous fixus. To get onto one of these courses, you will need to be successful in a lottery – again, talk to the institution.

Fees vary depending on whether or not you are from an EU nation. If you are, the average annual fee is €2,296 (US$3,050), and if not, you can expect to pay €9,733 (US$12,850). Tuition will be in Dutch or English – be prepared to prove you can speak the relevant one.

As with any nation in the European Union, the visa process differs according to whether or not you are a citizen of another nation in the EU (or Switzerland).

Non EU nationals:


  • Depending on your nationality, you may need to apply for a provisional residence permit, known as an MVV (Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf). The Nuffic website has the relevant information. Your host institution will probably make the actual application for you, but you will need to supply all the necessary documents, which must be in Dutch, English, French or German, or officially translated into one of these languages. As well as basic documentation showing you’re actually on a course, you will need to prove you have €794.69 (US$1,045) a month to support yourself.
  • Chinese students enrolling on English language courses must also apply for the Nuffic Certificate, which can be done online through the Nuffic Certificate Online Application System, in order to get their MVV.
  • You will need to apply for a residence permit. Your institution will apply for this on your behalf, which should occur within five days of your arrival in the country. Your permit will be valid for a maximum of 12 months, after which you must renew. Some, but not all, institutions will do this for you, so make sure you check which one applies.
  • You must also register with the local Aliens Police (Vreemdelingendienst) with three days of arriving, to whom you must prove that you have somewhere to live and that you have enough money to support yourself during your stay.
  • You should also register with your local municipality.
  • Purchasing health insurance is mandatory.
  • If you want to work while you study you will need to apply for a work permit, which will allow you to work for ten hours a week during term time, and full time during holidays. Your employer will apply for this.

Universities in France:


  • University of Amsterdam
  • Free University Amsterdam
  • Technical University Delft
  • University Eindhoven
  • University Groningen
  • University Leiden
  • University Maastricht
  • Nyenrode Business Universiteit
  • Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Rotterdam School of Management
  • Tilburg University
  • University Twente
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • University Utrecht
  • Agricultural University Wageningen
List of Polytechnics and other institutions of higher education:


  • Hogeschool van Amsterdam
  • Hogeschool Arnhem and Nijmegen
  • IJsselland Hogeschool Deventer
  • Hogeschool Eindhoven
  • Hogeschool Groningen
  • Hogeschool Holland
  • Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht
  • Hogeschool The Hague
  • Northern Hogeschool Leeuwarden
  • Marnix Academie Utrecht
  • Hogeschool Rotterdam & Omstreken
  • Hogeschool van Utrecht
  • Hogeschool Brabant
  • Hogeschool Zeeland
  • Royal Conservatory
  • Pedagogisch Technische Hogeschool
  • University College Utrecht
  • (undergraduate degree in English)