The Netherlands: the hardest part is deciding what to study

Students planning to study for a Bachelors degree in the Netherlands have plenty of options. Despite the country’s diminutive size, it packs in 14 research universities, 39 universities of applied science and five university colleges, all of which combined to offer 1,095 degree programmes taught in English in the 2009-10 academic year, according to the Netherlands Organisation for International Co-operation in Higher Education (Nuffic).

Although the number of UK students studying in the Netherlands is still relatively small – only 1,250 out of more than 70,000 international students – they benefit from the Dutch higher education system’s international focus, particularly since most courses are taught exclusively in English. “There’s never been a language barrier to my studies,” says Dawn Williams, currently studying international business and management at the HAN University of Applied Sciences. “This is an international course, so any language other than English is forbidden in class.”

There are language components to many courses and students are encouraged to learn Dutch to broaden their cultural education, but universities place a great deal of emphasis on a high standard of written and spoken English, putting UK students at a significant advantage. With no language barrier to worry about, the challenge is to decide which kind of institution to study at, and what subject to focus on once you arrive.

Courses and their content vary hugely in the Netherlands, with much depending on the type of institution you attend, whether that’s a research university, university of applied science or university college. Courses at research universities generally last between three and four years, with an emphasis on theoretical knowledge and debate, as well as a broad approach to the subjects in question.

Research institutions include the universities of Amsterdam, Groningen and Twente, all of which offer a selection of programmes taught in English. At Twente, students can choose from Bachelors courses in creative technology, advanced technology, European studies or international business administration, for example, while Groningen offers Bachelors degrees in American studies and international relations, as well as courses in psychology, law and more.

At universities of applied science, the approach is slightly different, biased more towards preparing graduates for employment in specific fields. “We offer courses that prepare students for professional life,” says Sjoukje Elsma of Inholland University of Applied Science. “It’s good for students, because they’re getting both practical and theoretical training. After graduation they’ll already know and understand the world of work.”

Courses at Inholland include aeronautical engineering, leisure management, and marketing. Again, Bachelors programmes last between three andfour years and usually incorporate some kind of internship or option to study abroad. “We have a lot of connections with business and industry, it’s a very important part of our curriculum,” says Elsma.

While both research and applied science universities offer a wide range of options, those looking for even more flexibility might want to investigate one of theNetherlands’ university colleges.

Found in Middelburg, Amsterdam, Leiden, Maastricht and Utrecht, these institutions takeaninterdisciplinary approach to learning. Students effectively design their own three or four year course from a broad list of options and canchoose to major in the humanities, sciences or social sciences, while still pursuing other areas as a minor element to their programme. “We offer an international liberal arts and sciences programme that crosses the boundaries of languages, cultures and academic disciplines,” says Mariette Diderich of Amsterdam University College. “Discussions start from the ‘big questions’ in science and society and lead to in-depth study in a wide range of disciplines.”

Although courses and assessment methods (which might include exams, final theses and coursework) vary between institutions, a common theme is the approach to teaching. Throughout the Netherlands, sometimes in conjunction with more traditional methods, such as lectures and seminars, problem- or project-based learning is widely used to instruct students.

This involves assigning students specific tasks or questions to research independently or within small groups, and is intended to develop analytical skills and self-discipline. The concept also encourages communication between students and lecturers. “Students tell us they have good experiences,” says Sandra van Beek of Hogeschool Utrecht. “They say they’ve learned so much more than they would from just reading a book.”

For UK students studying in the Netherlands, beyond the Bachelors qualification lies employment, or perhaps further study to Masters or Doctorate level – but also the prospect of less student debt. With tuition fees currently at €1,672, it’s easy to imagine the number of international students from the UK rising. However, what’s more valuable is the experience of studying abroad, says Elsma. “Most students come here to have an international adventure. They come for the international environment.” The British students in this small country have a big opportunity, it seems.

“We teach students to co-operate with people of many different nationalities. We’re preparing them to live in a global society.”

More information.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + + uncapped commission + benefits: SThree: Did you ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + benefits + uncapped commission: SThree: Did you kn...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence