The Netherlands: you could be on a course by this autumn

There are only a few easy hurdles to overcome to apply for a place on a course at a Dutch higher education institution.

Whether you want to pursue a first degree or a Masters, details of all the academic or applied science universities can be found at, the website of the Netherlands Organisation for International Co-operation in Higher Education (Nuffic).

As with UCAS in the UK, there’s a national online application system for all undergraduate and postgraduate courses at these institutions. The timescale is flexible, with applications accepted at any time in the academic year. There’s still plenty of time to apply for courses starting this autumn, although some programmes will have a limited number of students they can accept, so applying as early as possible is always advisable.

Once you’ve got an idea of what and where you want to study, the next port of call is the Studielink website, which has versions in Dutch, English and German. Scroll down to the bottom of the homepage where you’ll find a link to “Go to the Studielink application”. On this page there are three login options, one of which is exclusively for students living outside the Netherlands. Selecting this link takes you down an application route that differs slightly from that followed by Dutch students. In fact it’s simpler, because at the moment all Dutch citizens are in the middle of being allocated new unique digital identities, which they will have to enter in the Studielink system. Since foreign applicants don’t need these, they bypass this minor wrinkle in the current system.

Once registered, you’ll receive a user name and password, which will grant access to a page where you can enter basic personal details and set a new password. All of this should be straightforward for most applicants, since the process is not far removed from booking train tickets, buying presents and joining other organisations online.

The next step is to name the course you want to apply for. Although most applicants will have already identified the course they want to enrol on, having looked at individual university’s websites and perhaps been in touch with academics and students at the relevant faculties, the Studielink system could be of particular help here. It offers you the option of linking up with current students in a sort of buddy system, giving you the opportunity to dig a little deeper into university life and the realities of studying a specific course in a particular place.

In any case, you should by this stage know what academic qualifications are likely to get you onto your preferred course. The Studielink system also allows you to apply for a selection of courses, each application being handled by the relevant university.

Having entered your desired degree and institution into the Studielink system, your application then gets passed on to the admissions authorities at the corresponding university. The main point here is that all applications must originate on the Studielink website. Any subsequent changes you want to make to your personal details or course choices – even if this involves switching between faculties in the same university – have to be made in the Studielink system first, before your prospective university will accept them.

Each university will then ask you to register and submit further details relevant to your application. For example, you’ll be required to upload copies of A-level and other academic qualifications, and probably be asked to write a personal statement, making your case for being accepted on your chosen course. A copy of your passport will also be required and the individual Dutch institution will do some checks to verify your identity.

At this stage, non-Dutch applicants from countries where English is not the native tongue have to prove that their language skills are good enough to be able to cope with a course where the students submit work and lectures are given in English. Although there are various qualifications that are accepted to this end, students from UK schools and colleges are usually exempt from the requirement.

Until now, Dutch universities have not tended to ask UK-based students to attend an interview as part of the application process, although this is beginning to change. For example, two out of seven faculties at Maastricht University now operate an interview system.

But this shouldn’t be viewed as a significant burden. After all, a British student living in Plymouth enrolled on the UCAS system would probably not think twice about travelling hundreds of miles for interviews with universities in London and Newcastle.

Assuming you’re accepted on to a course, the next matter to deal with is tuition fees. This is described in more detail elsewhere in this publication, but the nub of the matter is that British and other EU students qualify for the relatively low level of fees set for the academic year starting in September. Bachelors and Masters courses are both only €1,713 per year. Finally, you will be required to prove that you will be living within the same district as the university you will be attending.

The availability of student accommodation varies from place to place within the Netherlands, much like in the UK. Although British-style halls of residence are uncommon, most students find places to live in the private property market. The universities have accommodation offices to help you find somewhere suitable, and some even have their own hostels where students can live temporarily while they look for a more long-term home.

So, to sum up the application and induction procedure at Dutch universities, there is absolutely nothing that makes it in any way more intimidating than the corresponding system in the UK. The combination of online systems, the ubiquity of the English language and close geographical proximity of the Netherlands should ensure that getting in to a course at Leiden or Amsterdam is no more taxing than getting in to Liverpool or Aston.

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