By Marilyn Stelzner, IECA Associate (Lausanne, Switzerland)

In recent years, independent educational consultants (IECs) have been fielding more and more questions about university options in the Netherlands because of the number of low-cost bachelor’s degree programs taught in English (what US colleges call a major and the British call a course, the Dutch call a program). IECA members who have toured Dutch universities invariably complete their visits excited about the wealth of subjects covered in Dutch programs as well as the friendly, tolerant, international, and vibrant environment for students. Clearly there are good fits for certain strong students who are adventuresome, self-advocating, self-directed, hard-working, and emotionally stable.

At the same time, advising students about Dutch university options is challenging. In addition to unique aspects of the Dutch higher educational system, there are many differences between institutional and program offerings, admissions requirements, and application processes in the United States. Unfortunately, there is a lack of overview and comparative information to help you get the big picture, although NACAC’s free Guide to International University Admission is a useful place to start. Plan on spending significant time researching each program’s website, as well as the university website, before recommending a program.

Varied Programs

More than 330 bachelor’s degree courses are currently taught in English in the Netherlands, with more being added each year. Although most Dutch bachelor’s programs are similar to courses in the United Kingdom and require focus on one subject from the beginning, eight Dutch universities offer university colleges based on the US model of small, liberal arts colleges. University colleges are characterized by:

• Small-scale tightly knit academic communities where students are typically required to live in university college housing

• Fast-paced and intense classes, small class sizes, highly interactive teaching methodologies

• An international atmosphere with approximately half of the students from outside of the Netherlands

• A liberal arts and sciences curriculum where students explore their academic interests before narrowing down to a specific major

• Selective, holistic admissions.

In addition to research universities, Dutch universities of applied science offer bachelor’s programs in more applied fields. Note that bachelor’s programs offered by Dutch research universities are three years while the undergraduate degrees offered at universities of applied science are four years.

Dutch bachelor’s programs taught in English include the following opportunities.



Aerospace Engineering

Delft University of Technology, Delft


Leiden University, Leiden

Biomedical Sciences

Maastricht University, Maastricht

Circus and Performance Art

Fontys University of Applied Sciences, Tilburg



Double degree combining art or music and Erasmus University College (multidisciplinary, liberal arts and sciences) or Art and Culture Studies.

Codarts or Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, together with Erasmus University, Rotterdam

Electrical Engineering

Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven

Global Project and Change Management

Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Zwolle

Graphic Design

University of the Arts, The Hague, Den Haag

International Business Administration

Rotterdam School of Business, Erasmus University

Logistics Engineering

HZ University of Applied Sciences, Vlissingen

Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics

University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam

University College Twente, called ATLAS (Technology and Liberal Arts & Sciences), combining the study of science, mathematics, engineering and social sciences

University of Twente, Enschede

University College Utrecht (multidisciplinary, liberal arts and sciences)

Utrecht University, Utrecht

Once IECs identify programs of interest, they can explore potential fit by identifying the following:

• Number of contact hours and class size to expect in lectures, seminars, tutorials, or labs, and what type of staff will be involved. University colleges generally involve the most interaction with faculty and peers but some programs have as few as seven contact hours per week.

• Characteristics of a program’s teaching style. Some programs rely on a traditional lecture format with large class sizes while others use highly interactive teaching styles such as problem-based learning (PBL) where students apply new knowledge and skills to solve problems as a small team. With group members from diverse backgrounds and cultural environments, discussions can be especially lively.

• Availability of study exchanges and internships or work placements to enhance classroom learning and appeal to future employers.

• Types and frequency of assessments, especially during the first year. Students are required to pass 60%–100% of their first-year classes to continue.

Reputation and Cost

Dutch universities are known for their low cost compared to colleges and universities with similar reputations in the United States, United Kingdom, and other Anglophone countries. Although I am not endorsing rankings, the excerpt below from the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for 2016–2017 (, helps put the reputation of Dutch universities into perspective when compared to better-known US universities.

World Rank




Brown University



Washington University St. Louis



Delft University of Technology



University of Southern California



University of Amsterdam



Boston University



Erasmus University Rotterdam



Purdue University



Leiden University



University of Groningen



Dartmouth College



Utrecht University



Maastricht University



Georgetown University



Vanderbilt University



University of Virginia


Most international students seeking a bachelor’s degree pay international tuition fees set by each university, which typically range between €6,000 and €15,000. Students with a passport from the EU, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, or Switzerland, regardless of country of residence, pay the government-set fee of €2006 per year for 2017–2018 and approximately twice that amount for university colleges. Students in the Netherlands typically spend between €800 and €1,100 a month on housing, insurance and daily expenses, such as food, public transport, books, clothes, and cinema tickets.

Student Environment

On-campus housing for students is not traditional in the Netherlands, but some Dutch universities guarantee student housing that is located on or close to the campus for first-year international students. University colleges typically require students to live in their housing, because a residential experience is crucial to the educational environment.

Dutch universities and academic departments support many different student organizations that are run independently by and for students. Don’t let names like study associations mislead you, however, because many of the activities are social. Student associations organize orientation programs for first-year students, parties and going for drinks, events for international students, charitable projects, study trips and excursions, career-related trainings and workshops, sport activities, cultural activities, and many other creative events.

The Dutch Admissions Process

Students apply to a specific Dutch program rather than an institution, and there are few generalizations about the admissions process that hold across all programs. Research universities in the Netherlands admit students whose prior education is deemed to be equivalent to the Dutch VWO diploma, such as those with the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, a US high school diploma with 3 to 4 AP exam scores of 3 or higher, 3 A-Levels with grades C or higher, the French Baccalaureate, or the German Arbitur. Although those entry requirements might seem low, standards are not. Students are required to pass 60%–100% of their first-year classes to continue to the second year.

Students who do not meet requirements may do a foundation year to develop academic and English language skills to the required standard before starting a bachelor’s program. The fees vary, but they are generally higher than the tuition fees set for the undergraduate programs. In addition, many bachelor’s programs at research universities accept students who have done well in their first year at a US college or university. Application deadlines range from January 1 to June 30, with earlier deadlines for selective programs.

When a program is selective, remember that minimum grades or points are minimums; it is always wise to ask what grades are typical for students who received an offer the previous year. With the exception of some university colleges, however, offers are not conditional in the UK sense that the student must obtain a certain number of points or grade level on their final exams.

Programs may require one or more of the following:

• Transcript or grade report

• Letter of motivation

• Curriculum vitae/resume (with collaborating evidence for each component)

• Two letters of recommendation, usually from teachers or school administration

• Course descriptions (syllabi) for required subjects

• Interview, either in person or by Skype.

Marilyn Stelzner, Global University Choices, can be reached at [email protected].

Resources Overview of the country, the educational system, admissions requirements, scholarships, working while studying, visas, and so on. Search for Dutch bachelor’s programs by selecting undergraduate for type of education and English under language of instruction. You can also search by institution or location. Register for Dutch university applications on this site.