A College in the Netherlands Worth Considering for US Students

In another blog post I told you about one of the universities that really stood out during my recent trip to the Netherlands. The other school I fell in love with has been on my radar for quite some time. It was first brought to my attention years ago, when I asked a research university administrator what he considered to be especially high quality universities of applied science. NHL Stenden was on the top of his list! It’s also been on my mind as there are a couple of programs my daughter, Ellie, was interested in here. So, part of the reason for my visit was for personal research.


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One question I hoped to answer was around whether there would be sufficient opportunities for student life in a smaller city. Leeuwarden is quite small (population is about 120,000) and I was concerned that students might have to rely on Groningen (35 minutes by train) for student life.

Leeuwarden is in the northern region of the country, right around two hours by train from the Amsterdam airport. I took the bus from the train station to NHL Stenden and was struck by all the young people I saw out and about along the way. I later learned that students make up 20% of the population which has led to a various outlets (clubs, cafes, pubs, movie theaters, etc) for a lively student life. There is also a student sports center, which accommodates students from all of the area universities, that offers a wide range of sports and fitness options-for just 70-232 euros PER YEAR!!

While the amenities, funding, and basics at research universities in the Netherlands is pretty consistent, I have found that this isn’t the case as much with universities of applied sciences. Further, this can be difficult to assess without boots on the ground. I have visited one that had a great website, but felt like a run down high school building and I’ve seen others that have modern and impressive facilities. NHL Stenden falls into the impressive camp. There used to be two separate universities right across the street from each other. NHL University of Applied Science had more Dutch program and Stenden University of Applied Science had more English taught programs. In 2018 the two universities merged, making the offerings, facilities, and services even more extensive.

The Leeuwarden campus (which is the main campus) is just a 20 minute walk from the city center. As I toured the buildings I saw ample lounge areas and study spaces for students, a large and active technology lab for Creative Business students, comfortable classrooms, indoor green spaces, and even a wine tasting room for a course that the Hospitality students take! The campus also has a bank, shops, and even a hair salon. Student residences are just across the street from campus and NHL Stenden offers it’s international students (from outside the EU) a rare benefit of a first year housing guarantee! Studios in the student residences range from 519-589 euros per month (less for single rooms).

The university offers 4 English-taught master’s degree programs (1 year in duration) and 14 English-taught bachelor’s degree programs. You may already know that universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands do not have the AP requirement for their 4 year programs. A number of the English taught bachelors programs offer both a 4 year and 3 year version. Students who do apply with the 4 AP scores of 3+ take courses that condense the first two years into one year.

Each program has at least one really distinct feature. The Information Technology program is the only program in Europe to offer a certified Ethical Hacking minor. The Creative Business program is focused on Media Management and offers a minor in Music Management. The school is part of CIS, so graduates of their International Teacher Education have abundant employment opportunities. The Tourism Management program focuses on sustainability in the context of“how to find the right balance between people, planet, and profit”. Students in the Hospitality program work at different levels in the on-campus, Restaurant Wannee which focuses on New Dutch cuisine-emphasizing seasonal, local and creative dishes. My meeting was held here over lunch and I have to tell you, the meal was incredible!

The other exciting opportunity students have is the option to spend a semester at one of NHL Stenden’s international sites diving into a related minor. Students can study Community Based Tourism or Integrated Digital Marketing Strategy in Bangkok, International Destination Branding or Event Management in Qatar, Spa Business Strategy or Entrepreneurship in Acton in Bali, or Environmental Action or Wildlife Management, in South Africa. And these are just a few of the many options!

NHL Stenden utilizes Problem-Based Learning, which is common in the Netherlands, and expands on that approach with Design Based Learning. This focuses on creating, hands on learning, working in small groups, and working along side professionals and occurs throughout the program. A key component of working with professionals is the required internship, which can be completed internationally as well. These experiences and collaborations lead to an astounding employment rate, at over 90%, for all of their program!

I was so excited by the educational approach, innovative program features, unique international opportunities, and resources for students All of these factors create ideal circumstances for the employment of graduates, as well as an incredible education and student life experiences!

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