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Masters in Netherlands

by the FindAMasters Team

Why study for a Masters degree in 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

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).

Language Requirements

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.

Health insurance

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).

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