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Study at a Dutch university

Studying at a Dutch university

Dutch higher education institutions offer a large number of courses in English, both at research universities such as Utrecht University, the Universty of Amsterdam, the University of Groningen, as well as at the universities of applied science, such as the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, Fontys University of Applied Science and others. The extensive website Study in Holland offers an overview of the institutions and can guide you in the application process.

Each university has its own application procedure and requirements listed on its website. As part of the application, it is likely that you will be asked for copies of your birth certificate, high school transcript, and college transcript if you apply at graduate level. Be alert to the requirement that apostilles must be stamped by your state's Secretary of State Office before submission. 


Many universities make special funding available for excellent international students. Information will be given on the university's website for international student admission. The Fulbright program provides scholarships for US students who wish to study for one year at a Dutch university at graduate level. If you are interested, please visit the application pages of the Institute of International Education at

Other Scholarships

There are several searchable databases available: specifically for grants to study in the Netherlands. by the Institute of International Education
Self-funding Dutch universities will also accept self-funded students. Faculty members who wish to participate in international exchanges can apply for grants through the Fulbright Scholars Program. See

Educational System

Primary & Secondary Education

The Dutch education system is very different from the education system in the US. Kids start their education at an elementary school around the age of four and stay enrolled until the age of twelve. Elementary school has eight grades, called groups, in which the pupil advances each year. The study of the English language usually begins in group 7 or 8, but may start as early as group 4. In group 8, an aptitude test is administered in most, but not all schools. The result of this test, combined with the student's results in the previous years as well as the teacher's advice, result in a recommendation about the level of secondary education is best suited for the pupil. The parents usually accept the advice, as well as the secondary school, but parents may try to get their child accepted at a 'higher' level school. There are three different routes to take for high school: vmbo, havo, and vwo. Students who are found to have 'practical' abilities, usually attend vmbo - generally considered the least demanding level of school. Students who seem suited for more 'intellectual' pursuits take the havo or vwo route. Havo is a five year program. A havo-diploma gives the student the right to be admitted to a Dutch university of applied sciences. Vwo is a six year program that prepares students for study at a research university. Selection 'at the gate' is still quite rare, which means that students with the right diploma must be accepted by the universities, unless there is a cap on the number of students the university can accept in a particular field (e.g. medicine). In that case, grade level or strong motivation may give the student a better chance of admission. Music conservatories and art schools generally apply some degree of selection as these disciplines require a minimum level of artistic talent.

Higher Education quality

Quality of education is controlled at the national level and all institutions will do their best to pass the tests the quality assurance institution apply on a regular basis. Higher education institutions must be recognized (accredited) as such by the NVAO before they are eligible for research state funding. If you want to find out if a particular institution is recognized, you should visit the NVAO website

Culture of the Dutch Educational System

The competitive nature of getting good grades in the US is not prevalent in The Netherlands. Most students strive for a passing grade and grades are rarely given on a curve. The Dutch are a deeply egalitarian people who see accomplishment as desirable but are suspicious of people who attach themselves to it. Other differences include extracurricular activities. In the US, high schools typically organize school sports and clubs, where as in the Netherlands, extra-curricular activities such as sports, music lessons, and clubs are organized by independent organizations, not related to the high school. This applies to universities as well. Homeschooling is also illegal in the Netherlands unless the student's health prevents him from attending school.

Dutch Grading System

The grading system in the Netherlands is quite different from the one in the US. In the US grades are given in letters while in The Netherlands grades are given in numbers. As an American student, an A is a letter-grade that is possible to attain. In the Netherlands, however, grades such as 9/10 or 10/10 are very rare and hard to achieve. Also, in the US, teachers can curve the grading scale which can make it more competitive to get a higher grade. Competition is not as important in The Netherlands and grades are determined for each individual student.

Additional Info

Check out the links below for more information on the Dutch education system: