Masters Study in the Netherlands - A Guide for 2024 |

Masters Study in the Netherlands - A Guide for 2024

Written by Mark Bennett

Famous for its windmills, canals and picturesque cities, the Netherlands also has a proud history of international education and cultural exchange. The majority of the population are multilingual and over 2,000 Masters degrees in the Netherlands are now taught in English.

This guide provides up-to-date information on postgraduate study abroad in the Netherlands.

We've explained how Masters degrees work in the Dutch university system and provided an overview of the application and visa process for international students.

Postgraduate opportunities in the Netherlands – what’s on offer for 2024?

Dutch universities have been welcoming international students for centuries, but why should you consider the Netherlands for your Masters degree?

We've taken a look at some of the best reasons to study a Masters in Holland and the Netherlands right now:

  • Innovation and creativity - 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.
  • A historic higher education system - The Netherlands' oldest universities date back to the sixteenth century.
  • Globally renowned universities - Dutch universities consistently rank in the top 200 in global rankings.
  • Large numbers of international students - The Netherlands hosts over 135,000 students from other countries.
  • Affordable degree programmes - Postgraduate fees for EU, EEA and Swiss students are capped by the Dutch government (currently €2,530 per year). International students pay more.
  • Academic specialism - Dutch universities offer Masters degrees in all major disciplines, but subjects such as Engineering, Economics and Business Management are particularly popular with international postgraduates.
  • Postgraduate loans - All EU students under 55 can apply for a tuition fee loan for Masters study in the Netherlands.

The following table provides additional key details for international postgraduates in the Netherlands:

Masters Study in the Netherlands - Key Details
Universities 70
Oldest University Leiden University (1575)
International Students 135,535
Course Length 1-2 years
Typical Fees (Domestic / EU) €2,530
Academic Year September to August

Dutch universities

There are three main types of university in the Netherlands. All offer Masters degrees and teach international students, but their focus is slightly different:

  • Research universities focus on carrying out new research and scholarship. They typically offer more academic Masters programmes, but professional courses are also available. Radboud University is an example of a research university.
  • Universities of applied science or hogescholen focus on more practical training and education in a range of subjects (including Arts and Humanities as well as Sciences). They typically offer more professional and vocational Masters degrees, with opportunities for internships, placements and other hands-on experience.
  • Institutes for international education focus on intercultural education and knowledge exchange. They offer specialised Masters degrees in appropriate areas.

Knowing the differences between these institutions can help guide your search for a Dutch Masters degree, but you shouldn't worry too much about them. If a university offers a Masters degree you're interested in, it's probably the right university for you!

Dutch university rankings

The international prestige and recognition of the Dutch higher education system is reflected in global league tables. Universities from Holland and the Netherlands place in the upper half of all three main world rankings.

For a more in-depth look at how Dutch universities place in international league tables, take a look at our guide to Dutch postgraduate rankings.

Top 10 Dutch Universities in 2024
University THE 2024 QS 2024 ARWU 2023
Delft University of Technology48=47151-200
University of Amsterdam6153101-150
Wageningen University and Research=64=151151-200
Leiden University77=126101-150
University of Groningen7913976
Erasmus University Rotterdam=99=17688
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam125207151-200
Maastricht University=138=256201-300
Radboud University Nijmegen=140=222101-150
Eindhoven University of Technology=168=124401-500
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do university rankings matter for postgraduates?

University league tables can help you in your search for a Masters degree, but you need to know what to look for. Our guide to university rankings for Masters study can help.

Dutch university cities

Despite its relatively small size, the Netherlands has plenty to choose from when it comes to student cities. Whether you’re looking for cutting-edge architecture, a world-class cultural scene or a quaint university town, Dutch cities have something for everyone.

These are a few of the main student cities in the Netherlands (you can use the links below to browse courses in each location):

Course types

Dutch Masters degrees are second-cycle qualifications. This means they are normally completed as postgraduate degrees, after a first-cycle Bachelors (or other undergraduate qualification).

Because the Netherlands is part of the European Higher Education Area, Dutch Masters degrees are awarded using ECTS credits.

Each year of your Masters will normally award 60 credits. This ensures Dutch qualifications are recognised across Europe – and beyond. In most cases your degree will be equivalent to a Masters awarded in the UK, or other country.

Degree types and course structure

Postgraduate courses in the Netherlands typically award an MA (Master of Arts) or MSc (Master of Science). Unlike their equivalents in the UK (and elsewhere) the Dutch MA and MSc may include a substantial research component, particularly when offered as a two-year Masters at a research university.

Universities of applied science tend to award more specialised professional programmes. These are often longer courses, incorporating additional internships, placements and other opportunities for hands-on practical training.

The following table explains Masters degrees within the Dutch university system:

Masters degrees at Dutch universities
University Qualifications Length ECTS credits
Research university MA, MSc 1-3 years 60-180
University of applied science Professional Masters 1-4 years 60-240
Institute for international education MA, MSc 1-2 years 60-120

These are guidelines for typical degrees. Make sure to check the details for your specific course.

Academic year

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.

Teaching and assessment

Dutch universities operate a student-centred teaching philosophy with a focus on teamwork and intellectual exchange. This is 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.

A final grade for your course will be based on the credit weighting of its individual components, including academic modules, practical placements and / or a final research project and dissertation (as relevant).


Masters degrees from the Netherlands are internationally recognised by both employers and academics. In addition, all are 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 confirm that your postgraduate qualification is recognised outside of the Netherlands.

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

Fees and funding

The Dutch government sets a standard rate for Masters fees at public universities. This figure is currently €2,530 a year for Dutch, EU, EEA and Swiss students.

Some restrictions apply. You will need to be studying at Masters level for the first time (with an exception for courses in Medicine or Education).

International students from outside the EU and EEA will also pay more to study a Masters in Holland. The exact amount is set by individual universities, but can be as much as €20,000 a year in some subjects.


EU students can apply for the same tuition fee loans (collegegeldkrediet) as Dutch students. These cover your full Masters fees, but will need to be paid back. All students under 55 will be able to apply for these loans.

Various scholarships for international students in the Netherlands are also available. A list of current opportunities is maintained by Nuffic (the official Dutch international education portal).

Application process

The application procedure for postgraduate study abroad in the Netherlands varies. Some universities accept applications directly from international students. Others will require you to use a service called Studielink.

Your first step should be to find out how your university would like you to apply. You can do this by finding a Dutch Masters and checking its details here on FindAMasters.

  • If your university accepts direct applications you can begin your application by sending an email enquiry or visiting the course website, using the links in our programme listings.
  • If your university requires international students to pre-register you will need to apply using the Studielink website.

Admissions requirements

All types of Dutch university will usually expect Masters applicants to hold a Bachelors degree (or equivalent in a relevant subject area).

You should be able to find out more about the specific requirements for your institution by getting in touch with them or consulting their listings on this site.

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 many Masters degree programmes are available in either English or Dutch.

  • Programmes in English will require appropriate language skills and – if you are not a native speaker of English – these may need to be demonstrated by providing a language score. English language tests such as the IELTS and TOEFL are commonly accepted. You will normally need a minimum TOEFL score of 90 (internet-based) or an IELTS score of 6.5 or more.
  • Programmes in Dutch will require a Dutch language test such as the NV2 or CNaVT. Alternatively, you could provide evidence of proficiency in Dutch, such as an existing qualification completed in the language.

Of course, you may want to take on the challenge of learning some Dutch whilst studying a Masters degree in the Netherlands, regardless of the language of instruction for your programme. 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 to learn the Dutch language. Some universities, such as Radboud University in Nijmegen, offer free social Dutch language courses for international students. Taking one of these may be particularly advisable if you wish to continue on to PhD study in the Netherlands.

Application deadlines

Most Dutch Masters degrees begin in September, but universities will set their own deadlines for applications.

Remember that applying to study abroad can take time – particularly if you also need to apply for a visa to study in the Netherlands. Aim to begin your application roughly a year before your course start date.

Read more about Dutch Masters fees and funding

Our separate guide to Dutch Masters fees and funding covers the cost of postgraduate study in the Netherlands in much more detail. There you can view information on tuition fees for different nationalities as well as current student finance and scholarship opportunities.

Student visas

Visa information for UK students in the Netherlands

UK students will no longer be EU citizens from the 2021-22 academic year onwards. This means you may be considered as an international student when studying in the Netherlands. You may be subject to different visa requirements and fee rates, unless otherwise stated.

Holland is one of Europe's most multicultural, multilingual and cosmopolitan nations. This is reflected in a student visa and immigration system that welcomes legitimate applicants from all countries.

Determining your visa status

Not all international students require a visa to study a Masters in the Netherlands:

  • Nationals of the EU and EEA can freely enter the Netherlands. Your university will be responsible for registering you with the Dutch immigration authorities (IND).
  • Students from other countries 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.

Note that student registration and residence permits 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.

Registering with the local Dutch council

All foreign students need to register with your local Dutch council once they have arrived in the country.

EU and EEA students do this after being registered with the IND by their university. Other students do so after successfully receiving their visa and residence permit.

You will normally need to present proof of identity (including your passport and a certified copy of your birth certificate) as well as a record of your accommodation in the Netherlands.

Further information

In some cases additional or alternative requirements may apply to Dutch student visa applications.

You can check exact requirements and procedures 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 course.

The source of this will depend upon your age and nationality:

  • EU and EEA nationals will usually be covered by an existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This will entitle you to healthcare in the Netherlands under reciprocal agreements with your home country.
  • Other students will usually need to take out private healthcare insurance (unless covered by an existing healthcare policy that is valid in the Netherlands).

Student health insurance requirements may vary slightly if you intend to take up employment alongside your studies. In such cases you may need to pay for a Dutch public healthcare insurance policy, regardless of your nationality and existing cover.

For more information, you can consult the detailed guidance provided by Nuffic (the Netherland's Organisation for International Cooperation).

Next steps

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.

Post-study work and careers

Holland and the Netherlands offer very welcoming terms to graduate jobseekers of all nationalities:

  • EU and EEA citizens are automatically entitled to work in the Netherlands and can therefore remain in the country after graduation, provided their residence registration is maintained.
  • Other graduates are also allowed to remain in Holland for up to one 'orientation year'. During this period you will be covered by a special residence permit that grants full rights to seek employment in the Netherlands without a separate work permit. If you are successful you can then go on to apply for a longer term permit under the Netherlands's Highly Skilled Migrant Scheme.

More information is available on the Nuffic website.

Further study

A Masters in the Netherlands provides excellent preparation for PhD study at a Dutch university (or elsewhere). Holland's international outlook, university facilities and academic heritage make it a popular destination for postgraduate research. And, having already studied in the country, you'll be well prepared to succeed with more advanced work.

You can find more information on PhD study in the Netherlands at

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