Research Universities in the Netherlands

We’re now on Lesson Three of All About the Netherlands, in which we’re going to take a deeper look at the Dutch research universities.

Slide 1: All About Netherlands – Lesson 3: Research Universities

Okay, so we're now on Lesson Three of All About the Netherlands, in which we're going to take a deeper look at the Dutch research universities. 

Slide 2: Research Universities

  • 13 public research universities
  • All are top 200 schools and half are in top 100
  • University Colleges
  • VWO equivalence required
  • IB diploma
  • 1 year college credit
  • Associate’s degree
  • 4 AP scores or 3+ (few exceptions)

So there are 13 public Dutch research universities. In addition, there are a couple of private universities, which you'll find in the database. But this lesson is just going to focus on the public universities. What's interesting is that all 13 of these are top 200 schools with half of them in the top 100. Now, I mentioned before that I don't think that global rankings have anything to do with the undergraduate educational experience. However, this should speak to any concerns you might have about international reputation and such. What's incredible is that even with these rankings, the admissions process is transparent and generally not competitive. 

You remember the lesson before when we talked about HAVO and VWO? The research universities require VWO equivalence. Kids in the VWO track in Dutch high schools have more vigorous educational experience focused on preparing them for education in a research university. Students coming from other countries usually need additional qualifications, in addition to a high school diploma, to make it equivalent to a Dutch VWO. These include an IB diploma, one year of college credits, that would be from a school that grants bachelor's degrees, an associate's degree, or 4 AP scores, or 3 or higher, though there are a few exceptions to those that we'll talk about later. Additionally, certain programs may have specific course requirements, especially those that pertain to math. We're going to get more into admissions in a later lesson. But it's important to know that you must meet one of the above in order to be admitted, they're super rigid about it. 

That said, the majority of the programs of these schools are not selective. That means there's not an enrollment cap. And if you meet the admissions requirements, you're in, period. It doesn't matter if you exceed the requirements and have 10 APs. It doesn't matter if there are other applicants with a stronger academic record than you.  You meet the requirements for non-selective programs, and you're in. Each school does have some programs with an enrollment cap, though they're more competitive. Again, we're going to get to that in the admissions lesson later on.

One thing to know is that most research universities have a University College. This is sort of like a department of the university, but it's more self-contained. They're called liberal arts because they allow a more broad education than most programs do. And some of them are broad during the first year, and then students choose their major. Some stay somewhat broad, with students choosing a theme instead of a major, and some of them allow students to design their own curriculum, with certain parameters, of course. 

All but one of the programs require students to live in the school's designated housing for a certain period of time. It's particularly nice when this requirement is just for a year. It allows students to get to know the others in the program, helps with the initial adjustment, and also eliminates the headache of finding housing the first year from abroad. Admission for all the university colleges is selective, meaning that it's not an automatic in if you meet the requirements like those without an enrollment cap. 

So, let's go through the different research universities and their associated university colleges. Since I pointed out most of these cities on the map in the previous lesson, I won't describe their location on the map in this one, but you could still keep the map handy to see where they are in relation to other Dutch cities. 

Slide 3: University of Amsterdam

  • Amsterdam
  • 12% international students
  • PPLE program
  • €8,910-12,925/year

So the University of Amsterdam has a number of interesting programs. But I do want to point out the Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics program, PPLE. PPE programs are found in a lot of other schools and are usually philosophy, political science and economics. But this one is unique since it adds psychology and law  and gets rid of the philosophy part. 

Slide 4: Vrije University

  • Amsterdam
  • 7% international students
  • Centralized campus
  • €8,796-12,335/year

This university has a large number of programs, but a small percent of international students. One thing to note is that they have a centralized campus, which is really rare in Europe, especially in a city. Centralized campus means that it's like a campus that we think of here where all of the buildings are somewhat geographically close to each other. Other schools in Europe, they're decentralized. So there might be, you know, the computer science department on one part of town and the mathematics department on another part of town. This is a centralized campus so they're all close together. 

Slide 5: Amsterdam University College


  • Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities


  • Life, Evolution and Universe
  • Energy, Climate and Sustainability
  • Health and Well-being
  • Information Communication

So Amsterdam University College is part of both of these schools. And it's right across the street from the University of Amsterdam. There are 900 students total. There's a real science emphasis with 50% of all of their students majoring in science, and the average class size is right around 20. They have a three year housing requirement. And the housing is right there, you can see it from the building across the street as well. So you can major in science, social science or humanities, and then you choose a concentration. So in the sciences, you would choose either math or physics, earth and environment, chemistry, biology, biomedical, health information. Social sciences, you can choose between anthropology, sociology, economics, law, political science, international relations, environmental economics and policy. And then there are the humanities; literature, film, philosophy, history, culture, art media. 

And then there are themes, and the themes guide your curriculum. So there's a theme of life, evolution and universe which connects to the science major. Energy, climate and sustainability which connects to the science major. There's a health and well-being theme which connects to either social sciences or science. Information communication and cognition connects to science. Social science, or humanities, or social systems which connects to social sciences.

Slide 6: Maastricht University

  • 50% international students
  • €8,000-10,900/year

So Maastricht University, one of the main things about this one I want to point out is how international they are. This is a public Dutch university that is 50% international, which is just incredible to me. So you can see,  there are a large number of options. While I want to go more into depth about the university college type programs, I do want to note that there is a Global Studies program that is super multidisciplinary and that is a member favorite.

Slide 7: Three different university college options

Maastricht Science Program

  • Science-focused university college

University College Venlo

  • Nutrition and health focus

University College Maastricht

  • Open curriculum

And what's also cool is that they have three different university college options. There's a Master of Science program. And this is like a science-focused university college. Your core is science-based, and then you choose your curriculum in science, focusing on one or combining a few. 

Then there's University College Venlo, which has a food and nutritional health focus. There's no housing, it's still pretty new. But the concentration are social science and life science. 

And then, there's University College Maastricht, which is an open curriculum. You choose a concentration and you focus on a discipline, or a combination of them. You do have to take a core class and certain number of classes outside of your concentration too. So there's some structure, but still a lot of flexibility. This is one that does not have housing, a residential requirement for the first year or any part of the program. 

Slide 8: Leiden University

  • 12% international students
  • €11,500/year

Leiden University is one that we think of whenever we meet a student who notes that they have an interest in other cultures. There are so many options related to this, whether it's, you know, cultural anthropology, Dutch studies, international studies, Asian studies, and even urban studies that can be of interest to these students. Leiden has two campuses, one in The Hague, and one in Leiden. Really different fields at each one, but they're only 10 minutes or so by train. 

Slide 9: Leiden University College


  • Human Diversity
  • International Justice
  • World Politics
  • Earth, Energy and Sustainability
  • Global Public Health
  • Governance, Economics and Development

Global Challenge Themes:

  • Diversity
  • Prosperity
  • Sustainability
  • Peace and Justice

The University College has about 200 students per year, two years residential. And let me tell you, the housing at the University College is just incredible, which you can see in this image. We’re talking floor to ceiling windows in the dorm room, vertical garden in the lobby.So the top floors of that building are student residences. It's, basically a studio apartment. Just really, really nice. 

Academically, the curriculum is around global challenges themes. So they have themes of diversity, prosperity, sustainability, and peace and justice. They learn about those themes the first year, and then choose a major from human diversity, international justice, world politics, earth energy, sustainability, global public health, governance, economics and development. So again, the global challenges theme appeals to a lot of students. They did just increase their requirements for admissions. The university is three APS of 4 or higher, and the university college is a 4 or higher. 

Slide 10: Utrecht University

  • 7% international students
  • Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • €9,600-12,500/year

Okay. So what's interesting at this school is that they have a Pharmaceutical Sciences option, which is really rare that you'll find a bachelor's in Pharmaceutical Sciences, but I will tell you that that is double, almost double the cost as the regular tuition. But to have sort of a medical science bachelor's in English is not incredibly common. So it's something to look at there. 

Slide 11: Two University Colleges

  • University College Utrecht
  • University College Roosevelt

They have two university colleges. University College Utrecht is – and actually, both of them are kind of choosing your own curriculum like we talked about before, how you design your own curriculum within parameters, less of choosing a major and all that more flexible, flexibility for choosing there. The other thing to note is that University College Utrecht is similar to an American campus, which people often like for the familiarity. UCR is not in Utrecht, it’s in Middleburg.  It’s not the easiest place to get too, but students have said great things about it.

Slide 12: Erasmus University Rotterdam

  • 20% international students
  • €6,600-14,500/year

Erasmus University Rotterdam, this is the school I talked about before that has the Management of International Social Challenges that’s so popular with many of our members. 

Slide 13: Degree Offerings

Double Degree

  • RASL
  • Philosophy

Erasmus University College

  • 20 different options for majors

And the other cool thing that they have is for all of their programs, you can add a double degree of a philosophy for just one year and something like 2000 euros and have a double degree. They also have a double degree program with the arts, which is Rotterdam arts and science – I don't know, but it's a double degree with Rotterdam University of Applied Science, where you can study the arts and your degree program for certain programs that they have there. The thing about Erasmus University College that's really cool is that they have so many choices for majors. There are 20 different options. Many of them are interdepartmental. So really, there are options for just about any student who wants to study there.

Slide 14: Twente University

  • 27% international students
  • €9,250-10,750/year

Okay. So another one with a good international student population number here, lots of technology focus. Their high tech, human touch educational philosophy includes social and behavioral sciences, and also focuses on the society impact of technology. So it's an interesting way to get other fields of study in with the engineering and technology stuff. 

Slide 15: ATLAS

  • Focus on challenges of modern society that require social and technical perspectives

They also have the ATLAS program, which is like the University College, and it focuses on modern society issues that need both social and technical perspectives to be solved, which is pretty cool. They offer two years or they require two years of housing for their ATLAS students. 

Slide 16: University of Groningen

  • 22% international students
  • €9,500-14,000/year

So University of Groningen, this is another BTS favorite. They had the most number of programs of any of the English-taught programs than any of the research universities. There really is something for everyone. Good international student population number and it's just really a great student city. We have a lot of members studying here, or will be studying here. It's really incredible. 

Slide 17: University Colleges

  • University College Groningen
  • University College Fryslan

They have two university colleges. For University College Groningen, there are three majors; sciences, social sciences, or humanities. So you choose from that after the first year, and then you choose a specialization in each one. Fryslan, is a newer university college, though it’s been around a few years now, and is in the nearby city of Leeuwarden. Like Leiden University College, they have an overall theme to all of their programs which is Global Responsibility and Leadership. In fact, the program was inspired by, and is aligned with, the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Their majors are moer theme based too. One is “Responsible Planet” which includes tracks for Energy or Earth and Environmental Studies, “Responsible Humanity” which includes Psychology and Global Health tracks, and “Responsible Governance which have tracks for Political Science and Economics.

Slide 18: Tilburg University

  • 13% international students
  • €8,900-14,600/year

Okay, so let's see. Tilburg University, their University College, you choose your major the second year. It's pretty standard choices of majors there. So that one is a lot more straightforward than some of these other kind of confusing themes and specializations, and how all that works. 

Slide 19: University College Tilburg


  • Arts and Humanities
  • Business and Economics
  • Social Sciences
  • Human Behavior
  • Law in International Context
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Brain and Cognition

Slide 20: Radboud University

  • 12% international students
  • International Business Communication
  • €11,500-15,700/year

So International Business Communication, this program is pretty cool because it was created due to the needs of growing global companies. So it's about communication with different cultures, it's about how do you advertise in different countries, and how are people kind of receptive to messages around advertising. And they look at strategic alliances and international markets. It's just a really interesting spin on a business program. 

Slide 21: Wageningen University and Research Center

  • 29% international students
  • Animal Sciences
  • Tourism
  • €15,700/year

This is really cool for kids who are interested in animal sciences, because they have, you know, a really pure one here where it focuses on the animals and their environment and the biological functioning of animals. So it's sort of like a pre-vet program. Or it could be, if that's what you want it to be. The Tourism program though, I want to point out because it's a joint program with the university of applied science. Because it's at a research university, you still need to have VWO equivalence. But it kind of shows that value that research universities find in universities of applied sciences too, that they would partner up for this program. So it deals with tourism, and the economy and society and the environment, and you study it from different scientific perspectives. So it might be about the sustainable development of tourism. They do a field project in Southeast Asia or Africa or Latin America. So it really combines practical, and a lot of the scientific knowledge, which is pretty cool.

Slide 22: Eindhoven University of Technology

  • 17% international students
  • €11,200/year

All right, so now we have the universities of technology. There are two of them. What's pretty cool here is the Psychology and Technology program where you learn how technology influences people, and how you can use the knowledge of psychology to help people use technology as effectively as possible. It says furthermore, you also learn how you can use psychology to design completely new applications like sociable robots, brain computer interfaces, or motivational rehabilitation technology for healthcare. So that's just really cool. And then, there's also an Architecture, Urbanism and Building Science program, which combines architecture along with urban development, design, engineering, constructional design, and building physics. So it definitely has an engineering focus, but combines these other things as well. 

Slide 23: Delft University of Technology

  • 27% international students
  • €15,700/year 

Back to Delft. The interesting thing here, I was looking at the Nanobiology program, and I really didn't realize how many subjects it includes. So this program is joint with Erasmus. And it's 25% physics, 25% biology, 20% math. And there's something else, it must be too, because that does not equal 100. So it's just interesting how something as straightforward as Nanobiology is going to still introduce you to different disciplines in different subjects. 

Slide 24: International Business Year 1 

Groningen and Hanze

So now that we've looked at the different universities, I think it might be helpful to look at exactly how programs that are offered at both the universities of applied science and research universities are similar and different. So Hanze University of Applied Science and University of Groningen are both in the same city and they both offer International Business programs. Hanze offers a three or four year program, but we're going to look at the three year so it's more of an apples to apples comparison. So the three year program at Hanze sort of merges the first two years together. 

And so, right here we have the courses. On the left hand side, the first year at Groningen, and on the right hand side, at Hanze. And as you can see, the majority of the first year courses are the same. The major differences are that Groningen has research methods and stats, while Hanze has case work and labs. 

Slide 23: International Business at Groningen and Hanze Year 2

  • 1 semester study abroad
  • 1 semester international internship

So the second year is dramatically different. Hanze students study abroad for one semester, and the other semester, they're doing an international internship. Whereas the Groningen students are still in the classroom a good bit, getting a lot more in depth knowledge on some of these topics, and also continuing with research methods and stats. 

Slide 24: International Business at Groningen and Hanze Year 3

The third year, Groningen students get their semester abroad, some courses, and a research-based bachelor's thesis. We're going to talk more about this thesis in the next lesson. And Hanze students choose a minor and do a graduation project in which they act as a consultant for a company. So it's practical, but there's still research involved, since they're defining and analyzing and researching a problem the company’s having, writing a report with the findings, and then presenting it in an oral presentation. 

Slide 25: Which is right for you?

So there's really no right or wrong answer about which type of university is, you know, the best. It’s more about is it the best for you? So you might be interested in a field of study that's only offered at one or the other. And that's great, so you don't have to worry about this. But if you are interested in an area where there's some overlap, it's important to look at kind of how they differ from each other. 

So I would really encourage you to look at two programs at a research university and two at a university of applied science and dig deep into the classes you would take at each and the experiences that you have at each to see which appeals to you more. 

So in the next lesson, we're going to talk more about academic life and the different aspects of academic life in the Netherlands.