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.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Primary Teacher

£90 - £150 per day + travel expenses: Randstad Education Newcastle: Upper Key ...

Primary Teacher

£90 - £115 per day + travel expenses: Randstad Education Newcastle: Primary NQ...

Primary Teacher

£90 - £115 per day + travel expenses: Randstad Education Newcastle: Primary NQ...

PE Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently recruiting...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup