The Dutch Study Abroad Market

In this market report on The Netherlands we will cover socio-economic, educational and mobility trends. The World Economic Forum has ranked the Netherlands as the third most educated country in the world. Also, in the renowned global Pisa/OECD rankings for 15-year-olds, the Netherlands is listed as one of the best performers. A third of Dutch 25-64 year olds hold a university degree, which is significantly higher than the OECD average of 24%.

All 13 state-funded Dutch universities typically score well in The Times Higher Education World (THE) University Ranking. 8 out of 13 research universities are in the top 100. All 13 research universities are in the THE top 200. No other country can match this.

The Netherlands seeks to attract growing numbers of international students and knowledge migrants. To this end, it considers internationalization vital for its knowledge economy. Attracting foreign talent is also a means to curb the aging of Dutch society and to counter labor shortages. The Dutch population will be over the age of 50 by 2020.

In terms of student mobility, the Erasmus program has always been one of the study abroad pillars. Tertiary degree mobility currently stands at 18,438. Most Dutch students study in Belgium, UK, US and Germany.

The Netherlands is also a popular study abroad destination. It is home to over 50,000 international students. This is a direct result of the internationalization policies of recent decades. Most master programs and an increasing number of Bachelor programs are taught in English. The vast majority of students come from Germany (over 22,000). There are nearly 5,000 students from China studying for a bachelor, master or PhD degree in The Netherlands. All this and more in the Market Report on The Netherlands.

Quick facts

  • Population: 17,4 million (2021)

  • Education: 9 years compulsory

  • Academic year: September – July

Secondary education

  • Starting age: 12

  • Duration: 4 – 6 years

  • Enrollment numbers: 1,6 million (2019)
    Enrollment rate: 136%

Higher education

  • Duration: 4 – 6 years (bachelor 3 – 4 years, Master 1 – 2 years, PhD 4 years)

  • Enrollment numbers: 817,000 (2021)

  • Tertiary enrollment rate: 85%

  • Universities / Higher Education Institutions: 50 (14 research universities, 36 polytechnics)

Dutch Education System

Education in the Netherlands is state funded and is compulsory from the ages of 5 to 16. After primary school there are several seconadary school educational pathways.

Secondary education

At the age of 12 children go to one of the following types of secondary education:

  • preparatory vocational secondary education (vmbo) – 4 years in duration
  • senior general secondary education (havo) – 5 years in duration
  • university preparatory education (vwo) – 6 years in duration

Admission to Higher Education

For access to bachelor’s programs at research universities a vwo secondary school diploma is required. Students who have completed the first year at a university of applied sciences are also eligible for admission. For access to bachelor’s programs at universities of applied sciences, the minimum requirement is a havo secondary school diploma.

Higher Education

The Netherlands adopted the Bachelor – Master system back in 2002.

 There are two types of higher education in the Netherlands: research-oriented and profession-oriented:

  • Research-oriented education (wetenschappelijk onderwijs, WO) is traditionally offered by research universities.
  • Higher professional education (hoger beroepsonderwijs, HBO) is offered by universities of applied sciences (hogescholen).
Dutch Educational System

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Latest Dutch Higher Education study abroad stats

At this point a total number of 19,285 Dutch students are studying abroad (source: UNESCO). These are the most popular study abroad destinations among students from the Netherlands:

Dutch students studying abroad
UNESCO study abroad data

IB schools in The Netherlands

Best performing Dutch Universities

Looking to partner with Universities from Netherlands? These are the best performing universities.

Wageningen University

THE Rank: 53

University of Amsterdam

THE Rank: 65

Utrecht University

THE Rank: 69

Upcoming Education Fairs in the Netherlands

Scholarships for Dutch students

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