How to choose the right course at a Dutch university?
When choosing the right course at a Dutch higher education institution there are several factors you should bear in mind:
1. Where do you want your course to take you?
Are you interested in following a primarily academic track at a research university or would you prefer the more practical, work-place focussed approach of a university of applied sciences. There are excellent examples of both kind of university available to you on this site.
2. Which subject are you interested in studying?
Although there is a wide range of courses available that are taught in English, it is fair to say that your chances are better in certain subject areas than others. With the exception of business and management which is taught at almost every Dutch university that teaches in English, you may only have one or two options in the whole of the Netherlands. For example, if you want to study Physics, University of Groningen is currently the only place you can go.
It is also worth bearing in mind that many Dutch degrees are specifically focussed on particular career outcomes and as such, they may not have the same names as their nearest British equivalent. For example, if you are interested in studying engineering you might want to look at Hanze Institute of Technology's degree in Advanced Sensor Applications. Similarly, if you are interested in biology you won’t necessarily find it at a Dutch university. However, a course in Process and Food Technology or Life Sciences may be worthy of your consideration.
There are certain subjects that you are unlikely to find in the Netherlands.
For example, you are unlikely to find English history taught in English but you might be able to find European history. However, both of these subjects could quite easily form part of the curriculum at one of the University Colleges in the Netherlands. These colleges offer the liberal arts style of education typically found in the United States.
Most courses taught in English in the Netherlands have grown out of the individual universities' areas of expertise. A university will rarely bother to teach a course in English if it does not already have a strong national reputation in that particular subject. This is probably the best indicator of quality in the Dutch higher education system, bearing in mind that Universities of Applied Sciences will never be visible in global university rankings.
It is also worth noting that Dutch universities do not offer joint honours degrees. These are not a well-understood concept anywhere else in Europe in our experience. It is possible that you will see degrees in two subjects, such as Economics and Philosophy, but these would be two separate Bachelor's degrees usually completed in four or five years. Joint honours degrees in languages are also not to be found anywhere in the Netherlands. If you are looking for a multidisciplinary education then University Colleges are probably the way to go but these are very different from joint honours degrees, too.
3. How long will your degree last?
This is not always as straightforward as it might appear even on this website. Universities of Applied Sciences bachelor degrees typically take four years to complete because they include a year-long work placement. However, in certain circumstances you may be able to get your full degree in three years (look for fast-track programmes). This is largely dependent on your previous qualifications. Excellent results in A’ levels, IB or BTECs will all be taken into consideration.
4. Many Dutch degrees include a period of time abroad.
So even though you are planning on studying in Holland, you may spend a significant amount of time in another country. In some cases this could be back in the United Kingdom (paying Dutch tuition fees rather than English ones) although it is usually recommended that you take this opportunity to investigate another country. When choosing a course it is probably a good idea to ask where you might be able to go for a semester or a work placement abroad.