Dutch universities: a lesson in value for money?

Dutch education is a bargain and a great way to boost your international job credentials

It's been well reported that British students, facing tuition fees of £9,000 a year at home, are crossing the Atlantic to study at America's institutions, where brimming endowments can mean generous scholarships and bursaries to offset fees.

It's a less well-known fact, however, that a short hop over the Channel and students could be studying at one of the world's top universities for around £1,500 a year. As members of the EU, British students can take advantage of the high quality, state-subsidised higher education sector in the Netherlands, where 12 universities are in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education world rankings – the highest placed is Leiden University at number 64 – and the Dutch system is ranked third for "best value higher education system in the world".

Communication is almost never an issue since increasing numbers of Bachelors programmes are now being taught in English and the Netherlands as a whole is widely fluent in our language. While universities run Dutch language courses for their international students, it would be perfectly possible to leave after three years having learned little more than the words for hello and thank you – although this would be a wasted opportunity.

The Netherlands already hosts around 81,000 international students, mostly originating from Germany, China, Belgium, Spain and France. "While British students are just a small proportion at the moment, the applications are rising as more and more see that we offer good quality education and it is a lot cheaper than the UK," says Karl Dittrich of VSNU, the association representing the research universities in the Netherlands. But it isn't just about money. "It's a very positive experience for them, not just in terms of their finances but also in terms of their social skills and confidence."

Tuition fees are around €1,800 a year, one sixth of the level in the UK – although the bill needs to be paid up front and isn't eligible for support from the Student Loans Company. On top of the fees, students must also find the money to live abroad. There's no tradition of on-campus housing in Europe, so students have to find their own private accommodation. Rents vary depending on whether or not the room is furnished and where you are studying: Amsterdam is more expensive than smaller towns, for example. A rough guide would be €300 to €600 a month.

Add in food, books, leisure and local travel costs and you're probably looking at expenses of around €750 to €850 a month – so a living budget for a year is probably a little over €10,000. To this, it's important to add travel costs for trips back home. These needn't be expensive – budget airlines fly to many of the big cities for around £30 – and travel within the Netherlands by train and bus is very reasonable.

British students can top up their income with work, such as shifts in bars and supermarkets, and those working more than 32 hours a week are entitled to an additional grant, although student advisers point out this doesn't leave much time for studying. And be aware that if you do take up paid employment, you will need to take out Dutch health insurance.

If this sounds daunting, take heart. Dutch universities are very keen to capitalise on their price advantage over the UK and are actively recruiting British students. They have well staffed and friendly international offices that aim to make the process as painless as possible.

Your first step towards studying in the Netherlands is to check which universities are offering subjects taught in English: a good place to begin your search is studyinholland.nl, which also includes information about the structure of the Dutch higher education system as well as an online database, Study Finder, of courses that are taught in English.

Then it's time to visit a few institutions. Because the Netherlands is a small country and has great transport links, it should be possible to visit several in one day. "Students can attend an open day or visit throughout the year and sit in on a class," says Sandra van Beek, manager of international recruitment at the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, which is a popular student town located in the centre of the Netherlands.

The teaching style may be quite different from a British university, with small class sizes (VSNU says there is usually one tutor for every 20 students), lots of discussion, problem-solving and project work. Utrecht runs a "first 100 days" programme to help its international students adjust. "We cover language, culture and way of teaching, which is quite informal and can be a culture shock for some students," says van Beek.

For those won over by the charms and the price tag of the Dutch system, then the advice repeated again and again is to apply early. Although applications can usually be received up until the end of August, most say May is a good deadline to aim for to make sure everything runs smoothly and you get first dibs on housing.

For example, at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) students then get a confirmation statement in May or June. "With this statement we ask the students to indicate which services we can start arranging for them, including housing, insurance and opening a Dutch bank account," explains Mirjam Hagoort, co-ordinator in the international relations office at TU/e, which currently provides seven Bachelors programmes in English. "If a student indicates that he wishes us to arrange housing for him, we will make sure that once the student arrives in Eindhoven, housing is ready for him." Given the competition for suitable private rented rooms in many university towns, this is worth taking advantage of by getting applications in early.

Because of its small size and trading heritage, the Netherlands has a very open society. Students are encouraged to take international internships and the universities all tend to have strong links with big blue chip companies and higher education partners overseas. Globalisation has made this dimension increasingly important and, given the typical stay-at-home profile of UK students, could deliver a needed edge on graduation. "Employers want students who have an international outlook and by deciding to study here, and live here, it shows you have the right skills and competencies," says van Beek. "It looks good on the CV and it's also good for your personal development."

Perhaps it's time to think about going Dutch?

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Commercial Property Surveyor

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading firms of Cha...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A keen Graduate Structural Engineer with...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Data & Delivery Guru

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Data & Delivery Guru is required to...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin