Masters in Netherlands
Why study for a Masters degree in the Netherlands?
When you consider masters study in the Netherlands your first thoughts might be of cycling to campus past picturesque canals, cafes and windmills. However, the Dutch are also one of the wealthiest nations in the world, boasting a young and diverse population. What's more, the Netherlands is home to a renowned higher education system, with universities dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The list of thinkers, ideas and innovations fostered and supported by these Dutch universities crosses a range of fields. Dutch scholars and inventors are responsible for developments as diverse as the first electric battery (the Leyden Jar), the first central banking system, the first diagnostic electrocardiograph and, perhaps less popularly, the first speed camera. In addition to its own achievements, the Dutch academy has also provided a home for international thinkers as important as Rene Descartes and Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. So, whatever you choose to study as a Masters student in the Netherlands, you'll be part of a proud tradition of overseas scholars.
There's also plenty to attract today's international students to the Netherlands, with low tuition fees (subsidised by the Dutch government) and financial support available to both Dutch and EU students through loans, work-supported grants and scholarships. This makes the Netherlands a more affordable county for postgraduate study than many other study abroad destinations.
Masters degrees in the Dutch university system
There are three types of higher education institution in the Netherlands: Research Universities, Universities of Applied Science, and Institutes for International Education. All offer Masters level study; although some are more expensive to study at than others, so check the tuition fees are what you expect before you apply. The differences between these types of institution mainly concern the kind of academic work they focus on and the students they cater to most specifically.
Research Universities, as their name suggests, are the main centres for research in the Netherlands. Their Masters courses may draw upon expertise in particular research fields and be associated with ongoing academic projects. The chance to become acquainted with these as a Masters student in the Netherlands could be an advantage if you plan to continue to PhD-level work after completing your degree - particularly if an institution's research agenda overlaps with your particular interests. Many Research Universities also offer professional training as a component of some postgraduate programmes, so your options won't be restricted to further study.
Universities of Applied Science
Universities of Applied Science (also known as hogescholen) offer programmes designed to develop practical skills in various fields, ranging from arts subjects to business management training. Their courses will often include internships and other partnerships with business and industry. A Masters at a Dutch University of Applied Science could be a great opportunity to explore professional opportunities whilst you develop your academic subject knowledge.
Institutes for International Education
Institutes for International Education are a modern expression of the Netherland's historical focus on international education and intellectual exchange. Their programmes draw on experience from different countries and may be particularly attractive to international students. At present there are six such institutes in the Netherlands, some of which are affiliated with Research Universities.
Accreditation of Dutch Masters programmes
Masters degrees from the Netherlands are internationally recognised by both employers and academics, and are all accredited by the NVAO (Netherlands and Flemish Accreditation Organisation) to ensure the course content meets recognised standards for both academic and real-world relevance. You should check that the Masters degree programme you're applying to is accredited by the NVAO to ensure that your postgraduate qualification is recognised outside of the Netherlands.
Dutch course structure and Masters degree content
The Dutch academic year usually runs between September and June, though you'll probably find that the summer holiday period (between June and September) is reserved for internships or for work on a dissertation.
Dutch Masters programmes use the ECTS credit system, common across the European Higher Education Area. This means that each year of full-time study on a Masters programme corresponds to 60 ECTS credits, with longer programmes carrying a higher overall credit value.
The exact content and duration of a Dutch Masters programme may vary, depending on the kind of institution you choose to study at. Programmes at Universities of Applied Science are often delivered on a part-time basis, with practice-based work and academic training feeding into each other. This also means some programmes may exceed the minimum length of one year (they may be worth up to 240 credits in some cases). At Research Universities, Masters degrees differ according to subject area. Taught programmes may be one year in length, but research degrees or courses in certain subject areas (such as engineering, teacher training, agriculture and natural science) are likely to run for at least two years, with a 120 credit value.
Teaching and grading systems
Dutch universities operate a student-centred teaching philosophy with a focus on teamwork and intellectual exchange. This will be even more important on most Masters programmes, which will expect and encourage you to put forward and discuss your own ideas with tutors and peers.
The standard grading system in the Netherlands follows a ten-point structure, running from 'very poor' at one to 'outstanding' at ten. In practice, most work is awarded a grade between four and eight.
Admissions and applications for a Dutch Masters degree
All types of Dutch higher education institution will usually require prospective students to hold a Bachelors degree, or equivalent in a relevant subject area. Further requirements will vary between institutions and courses. You should be able to find out more about the specific requirements for your institution by getting in touch them or consulting their website; to can find contact details for specific programmes search and compare Dutch Masters courses at FindAMAsters.com.
In some cases places on courses will be limited and admissions will be more competitive. This may mean that you are asked to submit additional materials with your application, such as a personal statement and / or academic transcripts and references. Applications to research Masters programmes may require you to outline any prospective project goals and demonstrate your preparedness for independent work in the field in question. You may also be asked to take part in an interview (which can sometimes be conducted over the phone for overseas students).
The Netherlands was the first non-native English speaking country to teach courses in English, and now almost all Masters degree programmes are taught in both English and Dutch. Programmes in English will require appropriate language skills and these may need to be demonstrated by providing a test score. International language tests such as the IELTS and TOEFL exams are usually accepted. Most institutions will require a minimum TOEFL score of 550 (paper based) or 213 (computer based) or an IELTS score of 6 or more.
Of course, you may want to take on the challenge of learning some Dutch whilst studying a Masters degree in the Netherlands. Doing so will make living in the Netherlands as a Masters student more fun and acquiring an international language certainly won't look bad on your CV. Universities often offer courses in the Dutch language and taking one of these courses may be advisable if you wish to continue on to PhD study in the Netherlands. You can learn more about Dutch language tests for international students here
Visas and immigration for Masters students in the Netherlands
Nationals of the EU and EEA won't usually require a visa to study in the Netherlands. Instead your university will be responsible for registering you with the Dutch immigration authorities (IND).
Students from elsewhere will usually need to acquire an entry visa (MVV) and a residence permit (WR) for the duration of their studies in the Netherlands. Your university will usually apply for these for you and you may be able to collect them from a Dutch Embassy or Consulate in your home country before you travel. You should bear in mind that your residence permit will only be valid so long as you are continuing with your studies and achieving a certain proportion (usually 50%) of the annual credit value associated with your Masters.
All students will need to register with the local Dutch council upon being registered with the Dutch immigration authorities or otherwise supplied with a residence permit by their institution. This will require you to present materials including your passport, a record of your accommodation and a certified copy of your birth certificate.
In some cases additional or alternative requirements may apply. You can check the exact Dutch student visa and immigration requirements for your country by using the visa applications wizard at the Netherland's official study portal.
All students in the Netherlands must have some form of medical insurance, valid for the duration of their courses. The source of this will depend upon your age and nationality. EU and EEA nationals will usually be covered by an EU Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Other students will usually need to take out private healthcare insurance. Requirements may also alter if you intend to take up employment alongside your studies. For more information, you can consult detailed information provided by Nuffic (the Netherland's Organisation for International Cooperation).
Masters fees and funding in the Netherlands
The cost of studying a Masters in the Netherlands varies according to the institution and course of study, as well as student nationality. Average annual fees are around €1,800 ($2,400) a year for EU students, though programmes in certain subjects (such as business and medicine) can be quite a bit more expensive and fees at Universities of Applied Science are also often higher. Non-EU students usually pay more to study in the Netherlands, with an average cost of around €8,000 ($10,500) per year. You should be able to acquire more specific information on fees from your institution, together with information on any funding or other financial support they may have available to international students.
Funding and scholarships for Dutch Masters degrees
Holland differs from other countries, such as the UK, in that government funding and subsidised loans continue to be available to postgraduate students. EU and EEA students under 30 may be eligible for these loans and, in some cases, may also be entitled to receive grants. You can find out more at the website of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
If you are not an EU or EEA national, or do not otherwise qualify for support from the Dutch government, don't worry; there are plenty of other scholarships and funding packages available to international Masters students in the Netherlands.
A range of scholarships are administered and maintained by Nuffic and you can view a list of them here. They include international support schemes such as the Erasmus+ programme, which promotes opportunities for study abroad within the EU. Some awards are also still offered through the older Erasmus Mundus programme, which Erasmus+ is succeeding. Erasmus funding is highly appropriate to study in the Netherlands as the programme is named for the Dutch renaissance scholar, Desiderius Erasmus, whose work and study took him across various international borders within Europe. You can read more about Erasmus funding for Masters study on FindAMasters.com, as well as at the homepage of the European Commission.
Our own postgraduate funding website provides a comprehensive database of small grants and bursaries available to support postgraduate study around the world, including travel bursaries, living cost support, fee waivers and exchange programmes. Click here to start searching for funding to study a Masters in the Netherlands, or elsewhere.
Careers and employment with a Dutch Masters degree
The Dutch higher education system is designed to produce high quality graduates, prepared for further academic study or employment. This is achieved through a focus on student-centred learning, alongside the development of professional skills and placements that form a part of many Dutch Masters. In fact, the Netherlands is so confident in the quality of its graduates that it maintains an online portal with advice for international students interested in remaining in the country to seek employment after their degrees. Alternatively, if you are interested in continuing your studies, your Masters degree will have prepared you well for a PhD in the Netherlands (or elsewhere).
Living in the Netherlands – A Guide for Students
What’s it like to study abroad in the Netherlands?
Dutch universities have a proud tradition of welcoming international scholars and students, as well as sending thinkers abroad. In fact, the Erasmus programme - the European Commission's international strategy for promoting and funding student mobility - is actually named for one the Netherlands' most famous thinkers, Desiderius Erasmus, whose studies took him across several European borders.
Today the Netherlands welcome huge numbers of international students (around 90,000 each year), including those studying on Dutch Masters degrees. Many are attracted by the country's combination of long-established universities (some of which date back to the 16th century) and modern expertise in a range of fields: from high-tech industry to innovative art and design projects. Of course, Masters students in the Netherlands are also drawn by a whole range of other cultural activities in the Netherlands, from visiting the largest Van Gogh collection in the world and a raft of other museums and galleries, to going boating on the famous canals, or just sitting back soaking up the café culture and superb nightlife. The Netherlands also has excellent transport links, so you can use spare time around your postgraduate studies to visit other parts of Europe. In fact, because the Netherlands is part of the Schengen area (a European free travel zone) you will be able to visit several other countries without needing to apply for additional visa or travel permits.
- The Netherlands is the main constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a state that also includes the countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. The population of the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands is slightly over 17 million, of which the great majority live in the Netherlands itself.
- Today, the Netherlands is often referred to as 'Holland', but this is not strictly correct. Technically, Holland is the name of a pair of provinces on the country's western coast. The three main cities of the Netherlands are all in Holland, however: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.
- The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, with a democratic procedure for electing its government. Its overall constitution follows a fairly unique format, with constituent countries and provinces possessing various federal powers and in some cases holding their own parliaments.
- The continental Netherlands is situated on a large, flat, delta. It experiences strong wind, with a generally temperate maritime climate.
- The Netherlands welcomes large numbers of tourists each year, many of whom visit North Holland and the capital of Amsterdam.
- The currency of the Netherlands is the Euro (€).
- Historically, the Netherlands has been a primarily Christian country and a proportion of the population today are either Roman Catholic (primarily in the South) or Protestant (primarily in the North). The country also has a substantial secular humanist population, however, with toleration for all forms of personal belief.
- The official language is Dutch, but many people in the Netherlands have a second or even third language, with English, French and German being most common.
Culture, leisure and everyday life
The Netherlands has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most liberal countries in Europe, with a relaxed attitude to life and a strong respect for the rights of the individual. The Dutch are perhaps most famous for their comparatively relaxed drug enforcement policy, but the country also protects rights to receive abortion or euthanasia and has a long history of pioneering social reform, including being the first nation in the world to formally legalise same-sex marriage over a decade ago.
All of this makes the Netherlands a friendly and welcoming place to spend time as an international postgraduate student. In fact, whilst studying a Masters degree in the Netherlands you'll be living amongst a multilingual, international community, open to individuals and ideas from all over the world.
Popular sites in the Netherlands include picturesque cities like Amsterdam, with its network of canals and relaxed café culture. The Dutch countryside is the product of the country's historical spirit of innovation. Much of the land has been reclaimed from the sea (and actually lies below sea-level - 'Netherlands' actually means 'low country') with a system of dykes excluding and controlling water. As such it is relatively flat, with strong winds. This has led the Dutch to become experts in harnessing wind power for milling and other mechanical purposes and the modern Dutch countryside is still decorated with windmills and wide fields, many planted with tulips, the Netherlands' most famous flower.
Students interested in exploring European culture and history - whether for research or pleasure - will also find much to occupy them in the Netherlands. The Dutch have played an important role in the development of shipping and naval technology as well as in important scientific fields (including pioneering work in the storage and transfer of electricity). The Dutch contribution to the arts has also been profound, with the works of master painters as historically and stylistically diverse as Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh being celebrated and displayed at major museums and galleries in Amsterdam.
Food and drink
Internationally, the Netherlands is perhaps best known for its cheeses, with semi-hard varieties such as Gouda and Edam being enjoyed around the world. Other elements of Dutch cuisine are very cosmopolitan, reflecting a long history of international exchange. This means that you will usually be able to find whatever food you prefer in the Netherlands, with many cafes and restaurants serving familiar international recipes. Traditional Dutch foods are still enjoyed, however. Many are based on hearty stews, soups and other slowly cooked dishes. Examples include snert (a thick pea soup) as well as different kinds of stamppot (mixtures of seasoned and mashed potatoes - literally 'mashed pot'). Traditional Dutch meat dishes include rookworst (a sausage made of ground and spiced meat) and slavink (a combination of ground pork and beef, usually wrapped in bacon).
Many of the ingredients of Dutch food are produced locally by a world-leading agricultural system. In fact, despite a relatively small landmass and high population density, the Netherlands actually exports more food than any other country in the world except the United States!
When it comes to drink, Dutch beer is renowned worldwide, with famous brands including Heineken, Grolsch and Amstel (the latter named for one of the main rivers in Amsterdam). If alcohol isn't to your taste, don't worry; a relaxed café culture has led the Dutch to enjoy a good coffee and the Netherlands also produces internationally successful non-alcoholic beers.
Accommodation and living costs
Because of the country's high population density (the 27th highest in the world), housing is relatively expensive in the Netherlands and university accommodation is quite rare. Instead you are much more likely to live in a privately rented room or flat in the vicinity of your institution. Finding such accommodation is likely to prove more challenging than it might do elsewhere, but your university should be able to help you. Its international office will be experienced in assisting foreign students to find accommodation and may maintain a list of local landlords or letting agencies with suitable facilities. Prices will vary, but, as a rule, you can expect to pay between €300 ($400) and €600 (€800) a month for accommodation in the Netherlands.
Once you've found your accommodation you'll need to make sure you understand clearly what's included in the costs, such as whether your utility bills are included in the monthly rent, and whether you're paying for a furnished or unfurnished room. And as you'll more than likely be sharing the kitchen and the bathroom with your fellow housemates, be sure to choose them carefully!
Food and other living costs for Masters students in the Netherlands
Groceries are not remarkably expensive in the Netherlands and many universities will have subsidised catering facilities available to their students. An evening meal at a student restaurant will usually cost around €10 ($15) and other pubs and cafes will also serve relatively inexpensive food. If you have self-catering facilities at your accommodation you will probably be able to save more money by cooking for yourself and taking advantage of the excellent fresh produce available from Dutch bakeries and grocers.
Working as a Masters student in the Netherlands
A strong tourist industry and a large hospitality sector means that there are usually many opportunities for students to find part-time work whilst studying for a Dutch Masters degree. In fact, your international experience and ability to speak other languages may make you an ideal candidate for some jobs.
No restrictions on working apply to students from EU or EEA countries, with the exception of Croatia. In other cases you will usually still be able to work, but will need to acquire a permit and will be subject to some restrictions on the amount of time you can work alongside your studies (usually no more than ten hours a work). You may still be allowed to work full-time during the summer period (June to August). Exceptions also apply for any internships included as part of your Masters programme. These will not require a permit, provided there is a formal internship agreement between your institution and employer.
Applications for work permits are usually made by Dutch employers and most will be accustomed to doing this when employing international students. Holding a Dutch work permit may affect your health insurance requirements, usually making it necessary for you to take out a public healthcare policy (zorgverzekering). You can read more about healthcare insurance for Masters students in the Netherlands in our guide to Dutch student visas and immigration.
Don't forget that you can also use PostgraduateFunding.com to search a comprehensive database of small grants available to all postgraduate students. These could be a great way of topping up your funding if you have difficulty finding work alongside your studies.
Other useful information
The above guide covers all the key information you'll need to know as a Masters student living in the Netherlands> Of course, your time as a Dutch Masters student will probably involve more than just finding a nice flat by the canals, getting a suitable part-time job, trying some stamppott and practising your Dutch in the local bar or cafe. There are other aspects of life in the Netherlands that you'll need to familiarise yourself with as a Dutch Masters student, such as public transport and banking. Click more for a brief introduction to these.
The Netherlands is a relatively small country, with an efficient public transport system including planes and trains, but relatively few automobiles; in fact, residents of cities like Amsterdam are more likely to get around by bike or by canal boat than they are to drive a car. Some Dutch cities also incorporate tram systems running between popular destinations. Travel to and from Holland is best made by rail or by air. Major European capitals are only a few hours away by train and you can travel further using Dutch airports, the largest of which is Amsterdam Schiphol, itself a major international transport hub.
As a student, you should also be eligible for various discount schemes, some of which can offer up to 40% off of fares on some services. You can learn more about public transport in the Netherlands at the website of the official Dutch tourist office.
Money and banking
The Dutch have a long history of innovation in financial services, having established the world's first centralised banking system in the early seventeenth-century. Today the Netherlands continues to be a centre for world banking, with major global financial companies based in The Hague. As an international student you will be able to open an account easily by presenting identification and proof of accommodation. You should also be able to use Dutch banking facilities for international money transfer services and avail yourself of plentiful ATM (or geldautomaat) machines.
Masters in Netherlands, by City
- Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences (Degrees listed: 6)