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?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness