Spotlight on: Postgraduate Study in the Netherlands |
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Windmills in the Netherlands
Posted on 2 Jun '21

Spotlight on: Postgraduate Study in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has long been an attractive destination for international postgraduates, offering the widest array of English-language university programmes in continental Europe. It’s no coincidence that the namesake for the Erasmus exchange programme – philosopher and scholar Desiderius Erasmus – was born in the bustling port city of Rotterdam.

Despite the country’s relatively small size (both in terms of population and landmass!), Dutch universities punch well above their weight on the world scene, with seven among the top 100 according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

This reputation for excellence is reflected in the quality of the research carried out at Dutch universities, with ground-breaking work happening across the country.

If you’re considering a Masters in the Netherlands, one unique aspect of the Dutch system compared to other European countries is that it’s common to study a one-year Masters, rather than a two-year programme (options to study a two-year research Masters do exist, however). This means you can potentially save some extra money on tuition fees and living costs.

PhD study in the Netherlands is characterised by the fact that most PhD candidates are treated as employees by their university. There’s also the small matter that you’ll be accompanied by ceremonial bodyguards when defending your thesis (coronavirus guidance permitting, of course).

Choosing where to study in the Netherlands

There are plenty of lively student cities in the Netherlands. It’s probably easiest to begin with Amsterdam, which has world-class museums, a vibrant arts scene and, of course, a stunning canal network. In fact, it’s where I studied a Masters in 2016 – you can read more in my blog about how my expectations matched up with the reality of studying in Amsterdam.

Utrecht is another popular university city, famous in recent years for its innovative approach to urban design after unearthing a beautiful canal previously covered by a busy highway. A Utrecht University student blogged for us about her experiences there, which has lots of useful information on what it’s actually like to study in Utrecht.

Rotterdam is home to the busiest port in Europe, as well as an eclectic array of modern architecture. The Hague, meanwhile, is the political and legal centre of the Netherlands, hosting the Dutch Parliament as well as the International Court of Justice. In the north of the country, Groningen is a youthful city with a reputation for being particularly bike-friendly (even by Dutch standards!).

For more information, check out the Masters and PhDs in the Netherlands listed on our website.

Applying for a postgraduate programme in the Netherlands

If you’re applying for a Masters at a Dutch university, you’ll normally need to register with Studielink – the central application portal for students in the Netherlands. Then you can submit the usual documents, such as:

  • Academic references
  • Bachelors certificate
  • CV
  • Grade transcripts
  • Personal statement
  • Proof of English language proficiency (if applicable)

PhD applications in the Netherlands are usually made directly to the university. In addition to the documents above, you’ll need to submit a research proposal that shows you’re a suitable fit for the project in question.

Deadlines for Masters applications at Dutch universities vary quite widely according to the programme and institution, and non-EU applicants will have an earlier deadline than EU and domestic students. Generally speaking, the deadline for courses beginning in the autumn will be between March and May. If you want to start your Masters in January or February, the deadline is normally in October or November.

Deadlines for PhD applications are a bit more flexible, with closing dates in June or July for most funded positions.

Postgraduate fees and funding in the Netherlands

As an international Masters student, you must be an EU, EEA or Swiss national in order to be eligible for the lower ‘statutory rate’ of tuition fees that Dutch students pay (currently €2,530 per year). International fees are usually between €8,000 and €20,000. There are several funding options, however – we cover a selection in our guide to Masters funding in the Netherlands.

The nature of PhD study in the Netherlands means that candidates are more likely to be treated as employees and so won’t have to pay tuition fees in a traditional sense. Our guide features some of the main options for PhD scholarships.

Studying in the Netherlands

It's always best when it comes to questions about studying to hear it from people in the know! Check out our blog from a Utrecht University student about her student life experience.

Search for a Masters in the Netherlands

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in the Netherlands on

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Last updated: 04 December 2023