Keystone logo

Study in the Netherlands: Education in the Netherlands

For a small country like the Netherlands, international orientation is important in the field of education and training in our increasingly internationalized world. Moreover, over 95% of the inhabitants speak English and it is easy to blend in socially during your stay. Respect for each individual’s opinions and convictions is a national virtue that gives strength to the fabric of the Netherlands.

Feb 6, 2024
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

For a small country like the Netherlands, international orientation is important in the field of education and training in our increasingly internationalized world. Moreover, over 95% of the inhabitants speak English and it is easy to blend in socially during your stay.

Respect for each individual’s opinions and convictions is a national virtue that gives strength to the fabric of the Netherlands' diverse and plural society. This is the foundation of the teaching method used at Dutch educational institutions.

The Netherland educational system focuses on teamwork, creating an ideal environment to make friends. The teaching style in the Netherlands can be described as interactive and student-centered, providing students with the attention and freedom they need to develop their own opinions and creativity in applying their newly acquired knowledge. By studying in the Netherlands, you will develop an open mind and increase your international orientation.

The Netherlands also has a long tradition of international students. As early as 1950, the Netherlands was the first non-English speaking country to offer programs conducted in English especially designed for foreign students. Gaining a diploma in the Netherlands can be a key to a successful worldwide career. The Dutch higher education institutions together offer 2,000 international study programs and courses of which 2,000 are taught entirely in English. This makes the Netherlands the front-runner in continental Europe.

The Dutch system of higher education enjoys a worldwide reputation for high quality. Experience shows that people who have studied at a Dutch higher education institution perform very well in other parts of the world. 

Find a program

Want to study in the Netherlands? Find & compare programs

Research Universities in the Netherlands

Netherlands' research universities are mainly offering research-oriented programs in an academic environment. However, many study programs also have a professional component and most graduates find work outside the research community.

All education programs at research universities in the Netherlands start their first year with the basic courses known as the propedeuse. The propedeuse provides the students with a general introduction to the chosen field and lays the foundation for the specialized subsequent continuation. As the program progresses, the students receive more freedom to choose their subjects. The final step is the thesis based on the student's own research.

The universities vary in size, with enrollments ranging from 6,000 to 30,000 students. Altogether they enroll some 240,000 students.


  • PhD: 4 years
  • Master of Arts (MA): 1-3 years
  • Master of Science (MSc): 1-3 years
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA): 3 years
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc): 3 years

Universities of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands

Universities of applied sciences ('hogescholen') offer professional programs that focus on the applied arts and sciences. An essential part of the professional study programs is getting practical work experience through internships. The largest enroll 20,000 to 40,000 students. Altogether some 446,000 students are enrolled in professional programs.

Universities of Applied Sciences are more practice-oriented than the universities, offering a variety of full-time and part-time programs in several sectors. All professional programs consist of a foundation phase and a main phase, and end with an individual project and thesis. The essential component of the professional programs is the internship, through which students gain practical experience in real work situations.


  • Bachelor (B): 4 years
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc): 4 years
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA): 4 years
  • Master (M): 1-4 years
  • Master of Arts (MA): 1-2 years

Institutes for International Education in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has been offering a form of higher education, called ‘International Education’ (IE,) for more than 50 years. There are many different IE courses and study programs that attract a large number of participants. These courses have gained a reputation even outside the Netherlands’ borders and include courses such as management studies, agricultural sciences, astronomy, medicine, civil engineering, remote sensing, and the arts.

International Education is primarily meant for people at a postgraduate level with some prior professional experience and is well-suited for international students. The pace is intensive at an advanced level and all courses are conducted in English. The programs, which last anywhere from a few weeks to four years, are quite practice-oriented and designed to meet the expectations of students seeking specialized knowledge. Institutes for International Education offer master’s programs, but no bachelor's programs.

There are four large IE institutes and a number of smaller ones which all focus on development-oriented courses. These are based on working in small, intercultural groups and the exchange of knowledge. They are facilitated by teachers with extensive experience in working in developing countries.

Graduate Schools in the Netherlands

Graduate schools are organizations within universities. They provide challenging study and network environments, like the research schools. Some graduate schools are interdisciplinary, other graduate schools focus on just a few or one discipline.

Problem-Based Learning System in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has received international acclaim for its ground-breaking Problem- Based Learning system, which trains students to analyze and solve practical problems independently.

The PBL (Problem Based Learning) system places an emphasis on self-study and self-discipline with a large portion of all study programs dedicated to writing papers, working in groups to analyze and solve specific problems, acquiring practical work experience through internships, and conducting experiments in laboratories.

Degree types in the Netherlands

Students who enroll in higher education programs in the Netherlands will obtain a bachelor's degree upon completion of the undergraduate phase, and a master's degree upon completion of the graduate phase.

Institutes for International Education offer master’s programs, but no bachelor’s programs, as opposed to Research Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences who award both types of degrees.

An MBA in the Netherlands is also an amazing opportunity to hunt your business dream job opportunities after graduation, improve your leadership and managerial skills and enter the business terrain with all the necessary qualifications. 

Bachelor’s Degree in the Netherlands

A research university bachelor's degree program in the Netherlands requires 3 years of study (180 credits). Graduates obtain a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science (BA/BSc) degree, depending on the discipline. A bachelor’s degree program offered by universities of applied sciences requires 4 years of study (240 credits). The degree indicates the field of study (for example, Bachelor of Engineering, B Eng).

Master Degree in the Netherlands

A master’s program in the Netherlands lasts at least one year (60 credits), ranging from 1,5 to 4 years (90-240 credits). Graduates obtain a Master of Arts or Master of Science (MA/MSc) degree. A master’s in the Netherlands awarded in the applied arts and sciences requires the completion of 60-120 credits. Graduates obtain a degree indicating the field of study (for example, Master of Architecture, M Arch).

PhD in the Netherlands

Research is carried out by research universities, research institutes, and companies in the Netherlands. The research universities are the only institutions that can award PhD degrees in the Netherlands, but since research bodies normally work in close collaboration with the 14 research universities, they are also able to provide positions to PhD candidates.

Earning a PhD is a hands-on activity that involves very little course work so PhD students in the Netherlands start doing research from day one. Through work with their supervisors, students are able to develop their own ideas and priorities while performing their research. Research schools and graduate schools provide an inspiring research environment, offering tailor-made study programs, master classes, conferences, and seminars.

Study in the Netherlands - Overview

Over 85,000 international students choose the Netherlands as their study abroad destination every year. Click here to learn why.

Student Visas

Do you need a visa to enter the Netherlands to study? Learn more about the student visa process, and what you need to enter the country, depending on your citizen status. You will also be required to bring certain documents with you to passport control at the airport, which we cover as well.

Housing & Living Costs

No matter where you study abroad, it’s important to create a budget in advance so that you’re prepared. Therefore, we’ve detailed average living and housing costs so that you can get a better idea of what you would be paying as a student in the Netherlands.

Tuition Fees & Scholarships

Tuition fees for degree programs in the Netherlands may vary. To cover the rest of the costs, there're some scholarship opportunities available.

Language & Culture

The Netherlands is a country rich in history and culture. Find out more about what the country offers in terms of language, culture, and more!

Application Process

All countries have specific admissions requirements for students to gain acceptance into a university. Learn more about the ins and outs of admission to programs in the Netherlands, and what you need to apply, depending on your citizenship.


Ready to look at education in the Netherlands? Use our search engine to find and compare top programs in the Netherlands today!

This country study guide was published in cooperation with the Dutch organization, Nuffic

About Nuffic

Nuffic is the Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education. Nuffic works to bring people together by connecting international students to Dutch universities. Nuffic’s motto is “Linking knowledge worldwide.” By enabling Dutch universities to share their knowledge with international students through a study abroad education, Nuffic not only links knowledge on a worldwide scale but also connects people from many different countries.

Keystone Team


The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.