Looking for affordable, top class, Higher Education taught in English?  Then look no further than The Netherlands (Holland).

The Netherlands offers 3 main streams of Higher Education: University, University of Applied Sciences and Liberal Arts & Sciences Colleges  (additionally, there are specialist Technical Schools and Arts Colleges).  Many of these Higher Education institutions feature in The QS Top 200 Universities in the World.

What do you need to be eligible to enter a Dutch University or College?  A passing grade in a High School or Secondary School Diploma (equivalent to the Dutch VWO).  Examples include: IB Diploma, A levels, German Arbitur, Italian Maturità, European Baccalaureate, All India SSCE of the CBSE, etc.  A passing grade only – that’s it? Well it may seem so, but in fact the Dutch Higher Education system filters students after the first year of studies.  If you don’t attain the required grade by the end of the first year of university or college then you are out (see below for Binding Study Advice)!  The system allows for students to move into Higher Education and once in, you have to prove your worth.

The systems however are changing to enable greater success.  Filters are being added at the application stage such as ‘Matching Questionnaires‘ (example from Maastricht University) as well as Entrance Tests for some courses.  Some will ask for Skype or Face-to-Face interviews.  Some will ask for an additional essay. There are also some exceptions for specific courses where you will be asked for specific grades from your High School studies. Take a look for example at Delft, one of the leading Technical and Engineering Universities in the world. IB Diploma students: For the 2018 entry Delft is increasing the Math requirement from Math SL to a required Math HL.

Liberal Arts & Sciences Colleges

The Liberal Arts and Science Colleges are attached to a main academic university and are called University Colleges.  They operate uniquely.  They are campus colleges, have small class sizes and are very similar in style to the US Liberal Arts education systems in that you can study a variety of options before you decide on your major (take a look at the Liberal Arts Blog posted in February 2016).  Generally these colleges ask for an IB Diploma score of around 32 points (min) and many (but not all) accept the IB Diploma Math Studies option.  Again do check with each college as each application is treated for its own merit.  Examples of these colleges include: University College Amsterdam, University College Utrecht, University College Roosevelt.  Leiden University College (LUC The Hague) is slightly different in that it offers a distinct course, Global Challenges, which features 6 Majors.  University College Maastricht and Erasmus University Colleges use the Problem Based Learning (PBL) method of instruction.  At Tilburg, the Liberal Arts course is taught within the main university campus.

How to apply

  • No national standardized application system like UCAS or Common App which can sometimes seem complex and confusing.  Ask your school advisor for advice.
  • Official registration: Studielink.  This is the national student registry who issue you with an official student ID.  Be warned:  you sometimes have to apply first to the university or college directly via their online application forms and only after you have been offered a place do you then register on Studielink. -> check the institute of your choice for details.
  • Application portals vary – some use their own portal, some use other portals such as EMBARK.  Once you have sent in your initial application forms you will be sent a University or College-specific ID number and a link to the university or college portal.  This information will be sent via the email that you provided on the application forms.  Check your emails regularly!!  The application portal can be as long as 24 pages.  You will be asked to upload documents such as School Transcripts, Teacher Recommendation Letters, Essays, etc.  See this example from Utecht here. Ask your advisor at school for advice.  Be prepared to spend a few hours on each application portal for each university or college to which you have applied!
  • Deadlines between December and July, though sometimes rolling admissions with “first come first served” -> check the institute of your choice.
  • Some institutions do have February intake – > but this is limited so check carefully with the institution.
  • Application jargon:  1. Numerous Fixus: if the course is a Numerous Fixus course then you can apply to one or two institutions only! Read the instructions carefully on the application!  2. Binding Study Advice –  basically this is signed at the beginning of the year and binds you to an agreement to reach a target grade by the end of the year.


Unlike universities in the UK and USA, Dutch universities do not generally provide student accommodation.  What they do provide is an Accommodation Support Office which helps you find accommodation in the local city or town. As this is the norm in The Netherlands then you will find an adequate supply of accommodation. The exceptions are the University Colleges which have on-campus accommodation provided for their students.  Places like Tilburg University do provide options specifically for international students where you can live together.


EU/UK/EEA/Swiss Citizens will pay around Euro2,000 in fees and together with accommodation and materials will need about Euro11,000.  International Students will need to add about Euro7,000 to 8,000 to that total – >please check with each institution directly.  Delft’s example is here.

Further Information

Study in Holland (UK)

Study in Holland (NL)


Student Financial Aid