The Netherlands’ name reflects its low-lying topography, with more than a quarter of its total area under sea level.
Now a constitutional monarchy, the country began its independent life as a republic in the 16th century, when the foundations were laid for it to become one of the world’s foremost maritime trading nations.
Although traditionally among the keener advocates of the European Union, Dutch voters echoed those in France by spurning the proposed EU constitution in a 2005 referendum.
The Netherlands has produced many of the world’s most famous artists from Rembrandt and Vermeer in the 17th century to Van Gogh in the 19th and Mondrian in the 20th. It attracts visitors from across the globe.
A massive retaining wall, or dyke, separates the Netherlands from the North Sea
At a glance
- Politics: A left-right coalition government was formed in November 2012, after months of deadlock over plans to cut the budget deficit
- Economy: The economy is primarily services-based but trade also plays a major role
- International: The Netherlands plays a central role in the European Union and Dutch forces have been active in UN peacekeeping efforts
After a longstanding policy of neutrality between Europe’s great powers, the bitter experience of invasion and occupation during World War II led the Netherlands to become a leading supporter of international cooperation.
Almost 20% of the total area of the Netherlands is water, and much of the land has been reclaimed from the North Sea in efforts that date back to medieval times and have spawned an extensive system of dykes.
It is one of the world’s most densely populated nations. As in many European countries, over-65s make up an increasing percentage of that population, leading to greater demands on the welfare system.
Since the credit crisis of 2008 hit world markets, the Dutch economy has struggled to recover from recession. The government has introduced rounds of budget cuts and tax hikes to bring down spending, and unemployment has remained high.
There was concern that Dutch society’s longstanding tradition of tolerance was under threat when homosexual anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated in 2002.
Anxiety over increased racial tension intensified further after the murder in 2004 of Theo Van Gogh who had made a film on the position of women in Islamic society. A violent Islamic extremist later confessed and was jailed for life.
After Mr Van Gogh’s killing, the government hardened its line on immigration and failed asylum seekers.
Since 2005, the right-wing anti-immigrant Freedom Party founded by Geert Wilders has made significant inroads in parliamentary elections.
The Netherlands is part of mainland Europe, it sits in Western Europe with an extensive coastline to the North Sea and shares land borders with Germany and Belgium. The Netherlands is also known as Holland and was the first non-native English speaking country to offer courses taught in English to international students. Now almost all courses offered to international students are taught in English and Dutch, which is great if you’re planning on studying in the Netherlands.
Study in Netherlands is similar to other popular study abroad destinations in terms of duration:
- Bachelors Degree (BA, BSc, BEng): 3-4 Years
- Masters Degree (MA, MSc, MEng): 1-2 Years
- PhD: 4 Years
The higher education system in the Netherlands is made up primarily of three different types of institution, each with a unique offering to an international student. These are Research Universities, Universities of Applied Science and Institutes for International Education.
Certain degrees levels are only available from each institution type.
- Bachelors: Available at Research Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences
- Masters: Available at all Institution types
- PhDs: Available only at Research Universities
The Netherlands is an established and revered seat of higher education with 4 universities in the QS Top 100 Universities 2010/11, those institutions are University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, Utrecht University and Erasmus University Rotterdam. Use the course search above to find the right course for you.
Important information about choosing a Dutch Institution
As most courses and degrees run for more than one year most international students will require an entry visa called a Provisional Residence Permit or Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf (MVV) in Dutch. Your MVV will allow you entry into the country for a six month period and once in the country you will need to apply for a Residence Permit – your chosen University should do this on your behalf.
A Provisional Residence Permit (MVV) will only be granted if your application meets certain requirements, including but not limited to:
- You must have a valid passport
- You have sufficient financial means
- All required fees have been paid
- You have a letter from your host University stating you have or will be enrolling
A level of competence with the English language is required before you can study at degree level in Holland as with other destinations, this will need to be proven when applying for your course by showing the results of an accepted English Language test. You will require a score no lower than 6.0 IELTS or TOEFL 550 (Paper Based), 213 (Computer Based). Other language tests may be accepted so please check with your chosen institution.
For more English Language advice please see the Language Requirements and Advice page.
Why Study in the Netherlands?
Higher education in the Netherlands is subsidised by the government and helps to keep tuition costs below that of the main study abroad destinations – USA, Australia and the UK. The qualifications will boost you career prospects as well as show you as an ‘out-of-the-box’ thinker for choosing a less well-known destination.
The Dutch are a welcoming nation of open minded and tolerant people and you will find a very diverse culture in most cities and their Universities. There is a lot to do and see in the country, some of which is described in the “About the Netherlands” section to the right. The country offers excellent transport links to other European countries which gives you the option of travelling and sight-seeing in other popular destinations such as France and Germany at a low cost during your time there. For more information on Studying in the Netherlands visit the official Nuffic Site.
Cost of Studying & Living
The currency in the Netherlands is the Euro (€). The expected cost of living is approximately €800-1,100 a month for a student lifestyle. Discounts for students are available on many leisure activities and transport costs can be reduced by buying a discount card for rail travel. You are advised to split your funds into three equal amounts:
- 1/3 on housing
- 1/3 on food and sustenance
- 1/3 on transport, leisure and study materials.
Scholarships and Grants are available for a variety of courses and student nationalities, Nuffic maintain a database of these that you can search.
Dependent on your nationality, working while studying for a limited number of hours is allowed. Your employer will have to apply for a work permit on your behalf and you should not assume there will be a job available as part of your budgeting.