The Netherlands: cash in on a double dose of Dutch hospitality

The cost of higher education in the Netherlands may be less than you think. Not only are fees lower than they are in the UK, but extra support is available to British students to help them pay the rent, buy their course equipment, and enjoy the social life their new country of residence has to offer.

Edwin van Rest is CEO of Study Portals, a website enabling students to compare academic programmes and fees throughout the EU. Unlike in the UK, “fees are the same for international students and nationals," van Rest explains.

Public universities in the Netherlands charge around €1,672 a year. This compares favourably with a maximum fee of £3,375 to study in UK higher education in 2011-12, rising to £9,000 for those starting in 2012-13.

That’s not the only good news, though. British students in the Netherlands may be eligible for support from the Dutch government too. “In the Netherlands, every Dutch student is entitled to a grant, which they don’t have to pay back,” says van Rest. “If an international student who is a member of the EU works alongside their study for 32 hours a month, they can also get this money.”

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Top-up loans, which are repayable, are also available from the Dutch government to EU students who are under the age of 30 at the start of their course. Details and application forms are available here.

The Netherlands Organisation for International Co-operation in Higher Education (Nuffic) promotes study in Holland to international students. According to Han Dommers, head of the education promotion department, many Dutch universities offer scholarships to support their international students.

“Once students know where they want to study, they should go directly to that university website or contact their international office to find out what scholarships or bursaries might be available,” he advises. He also recommends, which lists all the scholarships that are available to international students.

A number of these are up for grabs. “In Europe, there’s a pot of €16 million available in scholarships each year for international students,” says van Rest.

“That’s a combination of European funds, national funds and institution funds.” The Study Portals website has a searchable database to help students find a scholarship to match their specific situation – and hopefully to help them pay their way to an internationally recognised qualification. It currently lists 86 scholarships that are on offer for British students attending university in the Netherlands. Each of these has itsown criteria for eligibility, which may be based on the type of course, field of study, institution to be attended or other factors.

Potential sources of income include Erasmus grants, which are available for students who want to spend three to 12 months studying for part of their UK degree in another country. Louise Wallis-Jones spent four months in Amsterdam as a part of her Bachelors degree in social psychology from the University of Sussex. “Of about 20 that applied, I was one of two students lucky enough to get the funding,” she says. “It was all arranged at Sussex.”

Another option could be the Dutch government’s Huygens Scholarship Programme. This is open to students from all over the world. It’s generous, but hard to get: the average value of scholarships awarded in 2010 was €36,000 – but of around 1,700 applicants this year, only 150 were successful. As Dommers explains: “This is for highly talented students. You really have to be ahead of the rest.”

All this cash can go a long way. Although university fees are lower in the Netherlands, the cost of living is similar to that in the UK. Nuffic estimates student living costs are €9,600 to €13,200 a year. By comparison, www.ukstudent puts annual living costs for students in the UK at between £6,000 and £12,000. Given the lower tuition fees in the Netherlands, a Dutch degree should work out cheaper overall.

Dommers concludes: “Students from the UK are welcome in the Netherlands. We have 1,500 courses that are taught in English, and an excellent quality of education.” Which indicates that academically, as well as financially, attending a Dutch university could be well worth the investment.