Everything you need to know before studying in the Netherlands – education system, visa requirement and process, Indians living in Netherlands, post-study options and more.

1. About the country

netherlands map

Education System

Universities in Netherlands are state funded and can be divided into two categories –

  1. Research universities
  2. Universities of applied sciences

There are 14 research universities and 41 universities of applied sciences in Netherland. Research universities offer more research-intensive education, and universities of applied sciences prepare students for a particular professional field. In addition to the state funded universities, there are also many private universities and colleges.

Since 2002, higher education system in the Netherlands is organized around a three-cycle system consisting of bachelors (first cycle), master’s (second cycle) and PhD (third cycle) degrees.

The academic year in Netherlands runs from September until May/June the following year. Some institutions or courses may have enrollments throughout the year as well.

Popular student destinations: The top universities in Netherlands are University of Amsterdam, Delft University of Technology, Utrecht University, and Leiden University in no particular order. Most of the best colleges in the country are situated in cities like Wageningen‎, Groningen, Leiden, Maastricht and Nijmegen.

The estimated number of Indian students in Netherlands right now is more than 1000 for the academic year 2015-2016. Average annual increase of Indian students going to study there this year is around 50%. Space and Aviation teaching, Engineering, Business Studies, Art, History, Tourism and Hotel Management are the popular courses Indian students pursue in Netherlands.

Safety in Netherlands: Netherlands is one of the safest metropolitan areas in Europe. Violent crime rates are fairly low although some petty crimes like pick pocketing are not unheard of, particularly in major cities such as Amsterdam.

If you are new in the country never leave your bags or valuables unattended in the public areas. When traveling, it’s always a good idea to have your country’s embassy contact details on hand, should you run into any problems.


Netherlands experiences mild temperature throughout the year, with cool summers and moderate winters. Since the country is geographically small, there is little variation in climate from region to region. Average temperature in winters is 2°C to 6°C. In summers, it is 17°C to 20°C.


Life as an international student in Netherlands is really exciting. The Dutch are friendly people who are fond of football, fine art, good food and drinks like most Europeans. Students from India will experience a major culture shock in the beginning. The consumption of soft drugs is legal, lesbian and gay rights are respected seriously and no discrimination is made. The Dutch society is progressive and every one genuinely respects the state and the law.

Indians living in Netherlands

There are nearly 123,000 Indian immigrants living in Netherlands currently. The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Zoetermeer, Almere are the regions where most Indians reside.

2. Student life

netherlands flag


Firstly, you need to decide whether you want to live in university managed accommodation, or with a private landlord. Choosing university managed accommodation can also give you a catered or self-catered option. Catered accommodation offers the benefits of your meals being cooked for you and a degree of certainty with meal costs.
If you have an idea about what you prefer, the accommodation office at your university will be able to tell you what accommodation they have available, so that’s the place to start. If you are thinking of renting from a private landlord or if your chosen university can’t offer you anything in its own residential premises, the accommodation office should be able to provide you with a list of private properties and landlords in the area.

Wherever you choose to live, you should make sure that you know your contractual rights and responsibilities. In most cases you will be asked to enter into a tenancy agreement, which you should read thoroughly before you sign.


Orientation week is mandatory for international students so ensure that you arrive before it starts. This is the time where you will be introduced to the university and its services, as well as enroll in your classes. It is essential that you read your guidebook, which is provided by the college. The guide explains each part of the admission process.


Along with sports, colleges offer extra-curricular activities offering students a wide range of experiences. Music, drama, science and literary societies are offered in all colleges, and there will be opportunities for outdoor education and other leisure activities. Visits to theatres and concerts, to places relevant to the courses of study such as art galleries and museums, religious centers or historical sites, scientific companies and projects are all part of college life.

3. Admission process

netherlands student guide


In Netherlands, there is an abundance of degrees taught in English language, which means that course options are almost unlimited for Indian students. Currently, more than 2,100 courses are taught entirely in English and they range from training seminars to Master’s degrees. Browse through database of English-taught study programs and courses in Netherlands here.

For each course, a minimum academic record of 55% and above in Standard XII will be required. Foundations and Diploma programs are available for students who have secured around 50%. The student should have completed 18 years of age before joining a degree program. For the province of Groningen, the required academic records might be different. So if you are applying to a university in Groningen, check with the institute. It is important to remember that even though entry requirements are lower at Dutch universities, the standards are not. So you need to think carefully beforehand whether you will be able to cope with the high standard of education through the course of next few years or not.

The following documents also need to be submitted:

  • Mark sheets of Standard X, XII, and the bachelor’s degree (if applicable)
  • Results of TOEFL or IELTS
  • Results of Dutch language test Staatsexamen NT2 only for enrolment for programs in Dutch.
  • If you have work experience then two letters of recommendation (LOR) from the employer/manager who knows you well and can comment on your professional abilities
  • Motivation Letter (similar to SOP)
  • Resume
  • Portfolio (in case of students applying for art and design courses or architecture programs)
  • Others (Certificates / achievements at the state and national level and extracurricular activities)
  • Proof of funds
  • Health insurance
  • A copy of your passport
  • Photocopies of these documents should be translated in English and certified by the educational institution or by notary.

Admission process: There are two ways to apply at Dutch universities:

  1. Universities accept applications through their website, using their own online application modules. Universities like Hanze UAS, Leiden University, Groningen are some examples.
  2. Universities accept applications through Studielink, an online enrolment system. Universities like Inholland University, The Hague University, NHTV Breda University are some examples.

You will have to make an account on either the college website or Studielink to provide your basic information, submit the scanned version of your documents, and pay application fees. You will be informed about the application process and its stages through this account.

Application fee: All colleges require that you pay an application fee while applying. The fee amount will differ depending upon the college and course being applied to, so check with individual colleges about their application fee.


The common steps to applying for admission are as follows:

  1. Search for colleges and courses
  2. Contact schools and visit websites for information
  3. Narrow down your list of schools
  4. Take the language exams like TOEFL, IELTS or Staatsexamen NT2
  5. Write Motivation letters and ask for Letters of Recommendation
  6. Apply to the colleges which fit your interests
  7. Appear for video interviews of the colleges that shortlisted you (if applicable)
  8. If accepted, apply for student visa

Motivation Letter: A Motivation Letter is your introduction to the college and admission officers. It is always written in first person and describes the reason for applying to a particular college. It needs to highlight why you are a perfect fit for the college and why the college should accept you. The style of writing could differ from formal to casual, but it is important to remember that it should reflect your personality as well.

Essay: Essays are also required to be submitted by a prospective student. Essays are an important part of the university admissions process. Students may be required to write one or two essays, along with a few optional essays too. Common topics include career aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, skills, experiences, and reasons for considering a particular school.

LoR: A letter of recommendation (LoR) is a reference letter written by a third party describing the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the prospective student to recommend him to the college in terms of that individual’s ability to perform a particular task or function. The third party could be a professor, direct manager etc.

Intake seasons

Dutch universities have enrolments twice a year: in September starts the Fall semester and in February the Spring semester.

The admissions season usually begins in September or October for the following year. So, admissions start in October 2015 for entry in September 2016. The deadline of an application would vary from university to university and any entry restrictions such as Numerus Fixus*. For 2016 session admission, the deadline for most of the courses is May 2016. However, universities may have a different process, so you should check directly with the university of your choice. However, you need to set up your account on Studielink by 1st May 2016 in all cases.

*Numerus Fixus is a method for limiting the number of applicants at a university. In Dutch universities, it is in place for courses where there is excessive demand. 

4. Exams

netherlands student guide

Language exams

International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are standardized language tests, which are required to be taken for the purpose of getting admission to colleges. These follow different formats, structure and result bands. These tests are all different in various ways but many colleges ask for any one of the results. So it’s up to the student to decide which exam to appear for.

Repetition of exams: IELTS can be taken unlimited number of times. TOEFL can be retaken as many times as wished, but cannot be taken more than once in a 12-day period. You must wait to receive your scores before you can book your next test.

Fee: The fee for these exams is Rs. 10,600 for IELTS and Rs. 11,000 for TOEFL.

Time to apply: Ideally, if you are aiming at the September intake you should appear for these exams by November, so that you can apply before the first deadline. The universities you will be applying to will mention which exam results they will accept. But if they give a choice to go for either of these, then the choice depends on you. The time required to prepare for IELTS/TOEFL would depend on the existing English language proficiency. You may require 2 to 4 months of preparation before the exam date.

Required scores: on paper based TOEFL, at least 550 or on computer based TOEFL at least 213. For IELTS a score of at least 6 bands is required.

5. Cost of living

netherlands currency

The cost of living depends heavily on what part of Netherlands you will be living in along with how much you will socialize. Some of the basic elements for living as an international student in Netherlands are:

  • Accommodation rent (on-campus or off-campus)
  • Groceries and food
  • Utilities like power, water, internet etc.
  • Phone bills
  • Text and reference books
  • Airfare for traveling back to India
  • Other elements which may differ from person to person would be:
  • Dinning out
  • Travel and vacation
  • Car rent and car insurance
  • Cable TV connection

School expenses

The average tuition costs for attending a college in Netherlands will vary according to the school, the course and the city your school is located in. The average rates for tuition vary from about €8,000 to €16,000 per year. This amount varies and is based on a number of factors. The fees is usually lower for EU residents and higher for international students.

Even though the amount of financial assistance and scholarships are limited for international students, the cost of attending university in Netherlands is considerably lower compared to other countries. This helps make up for the lack of financial aid assistance available.

Living expenses

On an average, an international student needs approximately €800 and €1,100 per month in Netherlands. Prices differ a lot in the big cities and small towns all across Netherlands.



Meal, inexpensive cafe €15
Milk (one liter) €0.88
Coca Cola can €2.1
Coffee €2.5
Lunch from campus cafe €7
Meal at a restaurant €50
One minute cell phone call €0.17
Taxi 1 km €2.08
Petrol 1 liter €1.6
Movie ticket €10
1 room apartment in city center €600
1 room apartment in suburbs €300

Health insurance

There are three different types of cover: Dutch public healthcare insurance, an EU Health Insurance Card or a private insurance. If you are obliged to take out Dutch public healthcare insurance (zorgverzekering), you are free to buy insurance from any Dutch public healthcare insurance company. There are several insurance companies that offer relevant insurance packages, such as AON, OOM and Unirobe Meeùs.

6. Scholarships

scholarship application

Fee waivers are awarded to international students on the criteria of merit and the need of it. Candidate with strong academics, impressive Motivation Letter and extracurricular achievements would be eligible for scholarship awards and financial assistance. To benefit from these opportunities, one has to make sure to send all the required documents by particular deadlines. In addition to this, the presentation of the application is also important because one is judged by the image one projects.
Some of the scholarships available with academic institutions in Netherlands can cover partial or total expenses of attending college.

Here are a few scholarships that Indian students can take advantage of:

Netherlands/EU government sponsored scholarships

  • Holland Scholarships – The Holland Scholarship is meant for international students from outside the EU who want to pursue their Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree at the 48 participating Universities in Netherlands. The scholarship amount is € 5,000 which the student will receive this in the first year of studies.
  • Netherlands Fellowship Program – The Netherlands Fellowship Programmes (NFP) promotes capacity building within organizations in 51 countries by providing scholarships for training and education of professionals. The NFP is fully funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The NFP offers fellowships for Master studies, PhD studies and short courses.
  • Erasmus Mundus Scholarships in Netherlands – Erasmus Mundus is a program of the European Commission. The scholarships allow international students to pursue participating Master and PhD study program for free.

College and University sponsored scholarships

  • Leiden University Excellence Scholarships – The scholarships offer €10,000 of the tuition fee, €15,000 of the tuition fee or total tuition fee minus the home fee for international students pursuing any MA, MSc and LL.M programs offered at Leiden University.
  • University of Maastricht High Potential Scholarships – This scholarship is offered to selected students pursuing any master’s program at the University, except for School of Business and Economics.  The scholarships cover tuition fee, living expenses, insurance, and visa costs.
  • Radboud University Scholarship Programme – This program offers the opportunity to receive a scholarship to pursue an English-taught Master’s degree program at the Radboud University.
  • Utrecht University Excellence Scholarships – The Utrecht Excellence scholarship can be awarded as either tuition fees or tuition fees plus €11,000 for living expenses. A total of 20-25 scholarships are available for the academic session of 2016-2017, divided over the six graduate schools.
  • TU Delft Excellence Scholarships – this scholarship is for excellent international applicants admitted to one of TU Delft’s MSc programs, with a cumulative GPA of 80% or higher of the scale maximum in your bachelor’s degree. Students are offered full scholarship, covering tuition fees, monthly allowance for living expenses and one-time travel expenses.
  • Amsterdam Excellence Scholarships – The Amsterdam Excellence Scholarship is a full scholarship of €25,000 covering tuition and living expenses for one academic year. The university awards up to 15 of these scholarships annually.
  • University of Twente Scholarships – University Twente Scholarships are for excellent students from both EU and non-EU students applying for a graduate program (MSc) at the university. The scholarship amount is from €6,000 – €25,000 for one year.
  • VU University Amsterdam Fellowship Programme – The VU Fellowship Programme offers selected students from outside the EU a unique opportunity to pursue a degree from selected master’s programs at VU University. The scholarship awards €15,000 for the tuition fee for non-EU students.
  • The Hague World Citizen Talent Scholarship – The Hague University offers scholarships to international students who want to pursue their bachelor’s program at the University.  The scholarships cover almost two-thirds of the first year tuition fee and are awarded only once.

Find the complete database of scholarships available in Netherlands here.


Student Eligibility criteria: The first thing is to be aware of whether you are eligible to apply for the loan or not. The general eligibility criteria that are followed by all the banks are:

  • You should be an Indian national
  • You must have a strong academic record
  • You must be seeking admission to a professional, technical or other course of study. Most banks maintain that the selected course should be job oriented
  • You must have secured admission to a foreign university/institution
  • You must be above the age of 18 years or else your parents can avail the loan

Eligibility of course: You may not get a loan on every course. Here are the kinds of courses that qualify for the education loan.

For Graduation: Job oriented professional or technical courses offered by reputed universities

For Post-Graduation: MCA, MBA, MS or even diplomas

These courses could be from foreign universities or institutes approved by the state and central government

Loan amount: If your total fee is Rs.10 lakh, the bank may offer to give a loan of 80% of the amount and you will have to put in the balance 20%. This is called the margin amount. The maximum loan amount for studies abroad is generally around Rs.20 lakh by the bank. If your tuition fees amount is Rs.30 lakh, you’ll have to manage the rest of the funds by yourself. Some banks charge a processing fee, while others don’t. It may be a fixed amount or a percentage of the total loan amount. So if the bank charges you one per cent as processing fee, that will be an additional cost you’ll have to cover.

Documentation required: You will have to provide the acceptance letter sent by the university reflecting that you have been selected for the course and the schedule of fees. You will also need to show the mark sheet of the last qualifying examination to show your academic record.

All banks have different requirement for documentation, so you need to confirm with the bank first.

Repayment: Repayment starts only after the course period. If the student gets employed within one year after completion of the course, the repayment should start immediately after expiry of one month from the date of employment.

If you do not secure a job within a year of completing the course, then repayment starts irrespective of whether or not you are employed. The loan is generally to be repaid in 5-7 years after commencement of repayment. If the student is not able to complete the course within the scheduled time extension for completion of course, he may be permitted for a maximum period of two years. Generally, you will get up to a maximum number of 10 years to repay the loan.

7. Visa

netherlands visa


You will need an entry visa called a Provisional Residence Permit, or ‘Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblifj’ (MVV). The MVV application will take some time to process, and it is recommended that you apply at least three months before the intended arrival date in the Netherlands.

You need to visit the VFS website to schedule an appointment at the visa application center to submit your application. The applications can be submitted at the VFS Netherlands Visa Application Centers in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Jalandhar with prior appointment. You can also apply for an MVV through your host university, each of which will have their own application fees (anywhere from €250 to €350).

Once you land, you will require a Residence Permit. Your university will apply for a Residence Permit on your behalf. They will do this within five days of your arrival in the Netherlands. Upon receiving your permit, you will then need to register with the local council.

You should provide the following documents for the MVV:

  • Valid passport
  • Proof of provisional acceptance to study at a recognized university in the Netherlands.
  • A completed MVV form
  • Proof you have sufficient financial funds to support yourself during the duration of your studies, set to be at least €834 per month. For this purpose your bank statement and scholarship letters are accepted.
  • Medical test report for tuberculosis within three months of arriving in the Netherlands.

Work permit

The Dutch law allows you to only work for a maximum of ten hours a week. You can work full-time during the summer months of June, July and August. International students are eligible for student jobs at universities. Students are hired to provide assistance to incoming students, helping disabled students, tutoring, IT support and assistance, working in the career center etc.

Student employees are supposed to follow a work schedule that will not interfere with their studies. The terms and conditions of employment are adapted to the requirements of each student’s program so as to ensure academic success while offering work experience.

Visa for spouse

Spouses and children may be permitted to reside in Netherlands while you study, but this is conditional. These conditions include having enough and appropriate financing and a living space. Cases are decided on an individual basis at the Netherlands embassy, and special consideration may be given to your case if you are able to explain your situation to the consulate effectively.

8. Checklist before departure

netherlands student guide

  • Book airline tickets
  • Buy travel and health insurance
  • Arrange accommodation in Netherlands
  • Arrange transportation to/from the airport to home in Netherlands
  • Check baggage and customs limitations
  • Clear all paperwork with your home educational institution

Get your documents in order and make photocopies to store in your baggage and keep at home, including:

  1. Passport
  2. Airline tickets
  3. Travel insurance certificate
  4. Letter of Acceptance by the educational institution
  5. Key addresses and phone numbers
  6. A bank statement showing proof of funds
  7. Prescriptions for any medication you are carrying
  8. Traveler’s cheques—if applicable
  9. Medical and immunization records
  10. Academic history and university transcripts

9. Once you land

netherlands student guide

Homesickness: Homesickness is a predictable problem faced by most students at one point or another. It may occur at the beginning or even well into your year. Homesickness will pass. Be patient. Give it at least two weeks. If you are feeling sad, explain what is happening to your friends. Do not hide in your room; if you do, the feeling will only worsen. Find your counselor staff with whom you can talk about homesickness or other problems. Homesickness might be made worse by frequent, long telephone calls home. Most homesick students feel more homesick after a call home than they did before they picked up the phone. Try to limit yourself to one call home every week. The sooner you integrate into the university experience, the sooner your homesickness will pass.

Learning basic cooking: Cooking for yourself will save you money. Indian food is expensive in Netherlands. It will also satisfy your urge to eat “your food” during moments of cultural shock. Indian spices are not commonly available in smaller cities, but there are often shops on campus where you can get ingredients used in most Indian food.

Travel: In Netherlands, a bicycle is the most common and popular mode of transportation. The reason behind this are the very high costs of car insurance. So majority of the Dutch population use their bicycles to go to their workplace, markets, colleges etc. daily. This means that most people live nearby their workplace and college. Public transports like buses, trains etc. are also very popular.

10. Post Studies options

netherlands student guide


It is advised that as an international student you learn Dutch during your course period as it will certainly increase your chances of getting job quickly. Most universities have career advisors and workshops meant to improve your soft skills and assist in your job search. Dutch universities don’t follow that concept of ‘campus placements’ as it is understood in India. Students find jobs on their own; the college only helps you prepare for the job. Most Dutch study programs include a trainee-ship or an internship. Foreign students do not require a work permit (werkvergunning) in order to undergo a trainee-ship/internship. You can continue your internship on the student visa itself.

Work visa

International students graduating from Netherlands are allowed an orientation year after their study is over. It basically means they get additional 12 months where they have full access to the Dutch job market without the need of a work permit. After that one year, it is possible to transfer to a Highly Skilled Migrant (kennismigranten) visa, and apply for it separately.


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