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Trumped by US education? Consider the Netherlands

Trumped by US education? Consider the Netherlands

In the current political climate many students are looking beyond the US and UK for higher studies abroad. In this case, I would urge such students to consider the Netherlands, which offers a wide range of over 300 bachelor’s degree courses in English for international students.

Fees are among the lowest in Europe (ranging from approximately Rs. 5-10 lakh in annual fees, plus Rs. 50,000-75,000 per month in living expenses) and quality is maintained through rigorous accreditation standards of the Dutch Government.

Beyond cost and quality, it is the learning environment that sets Dutch Universities apart. They have cultivated an informal academic environment, which encourages student-teacher interaction and values student participation in classes and research. Educational hierarchy in the Netherlands is flat and promotes learning through discussions, simulations and presentations rather than lectures and exams.

There are two tiers of study in the Netherlands –

  1. First are the Universities of Applied Science (known as HBO), which are four-year bachelor’s degrees, oriented toward practical education for specific professions.
  2. Second is the Research University (known as WO), three-year bachelor’s degrees with higher entry requirements. These are more academic courses and are typically capped with a 1 to 2 year master’s degree. Many Dutch Research Universities also offer access to unique ‘University Colleges’ which are similar to US-style liberal arts colleges. For example at the University College Utrecht 760 students (50% international) study in a residential environment and create their own curriculum in humanities, science or social science and can elect to enroll in special programs, such as museum studies or transnational law. These programs offer exchanges with other universities globally and have selective admission processes.

Deadlines for admissions to universities in the Netherlands can begin as early as January and continue through May and offers are given on a rolling basis. The process for admissions varies by university, but typically includes a ‘motivation letter’ and an application form and a subsequent interview with academic staff. A test of English proficiency is required (e.g. TOEFL) and scholarships for studies are rare. You can access more information on the specific processes at studielink.nl.

After completing a degree in the Netherlands, international students can spend one year pursuing job opportunities. This year can be taken immediately or within three years of graduation (i.e. a student could return to India for a year and then go back to to seek work in the Netherlands the following year). Further employment must be sponsored through employers visa.

Other relevant points about studying in the Netherlands: Universities have a ‘binding study advice’ which means that once you are admitted, you must maintain satisfactory progress in the first year to be allowed to continue. This is true for all students, not just international. Student housing is available, but it is typically located away from the campus, near the city centre. Some university colleges offer campus housing.

Universities in the Netherlands boast a high percentage of international students from a wide range of countries – e.g. Among Tilburg university’s 12,500 students, 102 countries are represented. However there are currently very few Indian students in the Netherlands and the majority tends to pursue post-graduate studies.

Nonetheless, there are excellent study options for undergraduates in every subject – for example, Rotterdam School of Management’s triple accredited program offers students the opportunity to do an exchange with universities around the world, including Wharton or Ross business schools in the US, while University College Roosevelt is known for its program in art and design and offers an intensive music performance program, Tilburg University is a leader in social sciences and global issues, and Leiden University offers students the chance to study international relations in The Hague.

If you’re open minded, independent and looking for something different in your education, check out the Netherlands for good value, high quality and a truly global learning environment.


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The fundamental role of independent educational consultants is to help students explore college opportunities and find the right place for them to succeed academically and socially. IECs don’t get students admitted—they help students demonstrate why they deserve to be admitted at appropriately chosen schools. They help students find colleges they might not have heard of—often out of their region—and they help students put their best foot forward.

Here are 5 things families should consider when looking to hire an IEC:

  1. Does the IEC belong to a professional association such as IECA with established and rigorous standards for membership?
  2. Do not trust any offers of guaranteed admission to a school or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships.
  3. Ensure that the IEC adheres to the ethical guidelines for private counseling established by IECA.
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  5. Do they attend professional conferences or training workshops on a regular basis to keep up with regional and national trends and changes in the law?