Dutch student finance for British students
This page contains information on the current financial circumstances for British students in the Netherlands. Obviously, the vote to leave the European Union will have an impact on the accuracy of this information. We will not speculate here on this page about changes we cannot know at this time. From time to time, we will post updates on our blog.
1. How Dutch Student Finance works?
Studying in the Netherlands is not free, nor is it necessarily cheap. We can confidently state that the overall price tag of a three year undergraduate degree will be roughly £30,000 cheaper than its equivalent in the United Kingdom for English students. However, this may not be what your British degree actually costs you. Student finance in England is now structured in such a way that you will be unlikely to know the true cost of your degree until 30 years after you graduate.
The biggest obstacle to studying in the Netherlands is still financial because even though the overall cost is usually much lower, you will not be eligible for British student loans and grants. As soon as you decide to study outside the United Kingdom, the British government stops helping you financially. The only exception to this is if you go abroad on an exchange from a British university – a great way to get international experience but not a great way to avoid British tuition fees.
We have revised this page to reflect the situation for students starting university in September 2015 or later. If you are already studying at a Dutch university you may find that the rules and allowances are different for you. In essence there has been no change to tuition fee loans (Collegegeldkrediet) but funding for living costs has changed quite dramatically. Most British or other EU students are ineligible for living cost loans but details of exceptions are listed below.
2. If British Student Finance isn't available what can you get?
a. Help with tuition fees?
Because the European Union dictates that all EU citizens must be treated equally, British passport holders are automatically eligible for a tuition fee loan from the Dutch government. This is called Collegegeldkrediet. You don't have to apply for Collegegeldkrediet if you don’t need it and you can pay the fees upfront if you wish. Some universities charge higher tuition fees, specifically private universities and university colleges. In these cases you will be able to borrow the full amount if you are studying a Dutch accredited degree.
This loan is available to anyone with a British or other EU passport. It is not important where you are ordinarily resident.
There are some important conditions you need to meet but these are rarely an issue for British students. You must be under the age of 30 when you start your course*, you must have a Dutch bank account and you must have a Dutch "burgerservicenummer" (citizen service number) which you will only receive when you have a permanent address in the Netherlands.
*From September 2017 this will change. From then on tuition fee loans will be available to anyone under 55 years of age at the start of their course.
How does Collegegeldkrediet work?
This is the tuition fee loan component of Dutch student financial support. It consists of a loan to cover the tuition fees for your course. In 2017/18 this will typically be €2,006. The loan is paid directly into your bank account in monthly instalments (currently €158.83 a month) and it is your responsibility to pay the university.
Some universities request payment in full for the whole year, or at the start of each semester. This can mean that you have to pay the fees before you receive the loan which may have a temporary impact on your cashflow.
You have to pay interest on Collegegeldkrediet and this is applied from the day you take out the loan. The current interest rate is 0.81%.
There is a two year interval after graduation before you start repaying your loan. The loan must be repaid in full over a maximum of 15 years and there is no mechanism for it to be written off automatically after that time. DUO will calculate the rate of repayment. The minimum monthly repayment is EUR 45.41 but this can be reduced at the discretion of the Dutch government. You will have to repay the loan in full even if you do not complete your degree or if you leave the country.
Assuming you take out Collegegeldkrediet for a three-year undergraduate degree, the total you are likely to owe upon graduation is around €6,000 (£5,100).
You can only apply for Collegegeldkrediet once you have a confirmed offer from a Dutch higher education institution. Your offer will only be confirmed once you have received your A’ level results. For most students this means you cannot apply until just before you start your course. As a result, it is quite common for the loan to come through after you have had to pay the first instalment of the fees.
You can apply for the loan at any point up to 31st January in the academic year for which you wish to claim.
The current application form is here.
For more information
b. Help with living costs?
...unless you work part-time for 56 hours a month every month of the year or meet some other requirements. You can access support towards living costs (Studiefinanciering) if you meet any of the following:
- you have a Dutch passport, or have been resident in the Netherlands for five years without significant interruption;
- you work 56 hours a month in a registered job. You will need to be registered with the Dutch authoritiesfor income tax and national insurance, although as a student you won’t actually have to pay this. You must work this amount every month so it will be difficult to return to the UK for the whole summer, for example;
- you are married or have a partner from the EU and Switzerland, if they work 56 hours a month with a contract from a Dutch employer;
- your parent works 56 hours a month with a contract from a Dutch employer and is resident in the Netherlands;
- If you, your partner or your parent is an independent entrepreneur and/or freelancer based in the Netherlands, works 56 hours a month, and you can prove this to the satisfaction of the Dutch government.
There are some additional conditions that you need to meet in order to be eligible for "Stufi". You need to have the job for three months before you submit your claim for support. The support you receive will not be backdated so, unless you line up a job before you start studying, you cannot count on this support from day one. If you work you must also purchase Dutch health insurance. Ordinarily you can survive in the Netherlands with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from the British government for the duration of your degree (please make sure you are aware of what isn't covered by EHIC if you plan to do this). If you work, you will need full health insurance. The cost of this insurance is usually around €90 a month but you can claim back around €70 of this (only if you are working - you cannot claim anything back if you aren't).
This financial assistance is provided on the basis of your residency status in the Netherlands and not your student status.
How does Studiefinanciering work?
Please remember you cannot access any of this unless you meet at least one of the criteria outlined above.
The biggest change to the Dutch student finance system has been the removal of the basic grant. There are now no grants available to students automatically although some of this loan may be converted into a gift 10 years after graduation.
The next important change is that if you are eligible for Studiefinanciering, your Collegegeldkrediet will now be paid to you as part of one overall package rather than as a separate loan. This has no impact on the amount you are able to borrow but does affect the repayment period.
If you are a full-time student at a Dutch higher education institution you can now borrow up €1,016 per month. This includes the tuition fee loan amount. If you are paying higher than normal tuition fees, such as institutional fees at University Colleges, you can borrow up to €1,667 per month. Effectively this means that you have an income of up to €800 a month from this source.
Bearing in mind that you need to work 56 hours a month in order to claim this, it is extremely unlikely that you would need the full amount in order to meet your living costs. There is no hourly minimum wage in the Netherlands but if you were working 56 hours a month it is likely that your gross pay would be between €255 (19 year old) and €485 (23 years and older).
There is a mechanism by which up to €378 per month of your loan can be converted into a gift after 10 years. This will depend on parental income.
There is a calculator for working out your eligibility for a loan on the DUO website here. It is only available in Dutch.
This loan attracts interest at the rate of 0.81% per annum.
The repayment period for Studiefinanciering has been increased to 35 years. Any remaining debt will be waived after this time.
You can only apply for Studiefinanciering once you have three months worth of payslips from a Dutch employer that prove you are eligible for it. You can find the form here. It is all in Dutch. From January 2016 you will be able to apply for this loan retrospectively but it is still uncertain that you will get any support for the first three months.
For further information please visit the DUO website.
c. How to repay Dutch student finance?
Repayment of Dutch student loans depends on the amount that you have borrowed.
- If you only have Collegegeldkrediet you must repay over 15 years.
- If you have Studiefinanciering you must repay over 35 years.
Repayments will depend on the overall size of the loan but there are some safeguards built into the system. You will not have to repay if you are earning less than the full-time minimum wage. Repayments will be capped at a maximum of 4% of your gross earnings above the minimum wage. It is unclear exactly what thresholds will apply if you leave the Netherlands.
Default of loan repayments is not a major problem for the Dutch government. However, any student who leaves the country with the intention of not repaying the loan will almost certainly be found if they remain within the European Union. Students will then have to pay back not just the original loan but also a punitive rate of interest. The Dutch government will also be entitled to recover the cost of tracking down defaulters. This could easily treble the overall amount of the student loan. In short, failing to take responsibility for a student loan from the Dutch government is an unwise, not to say an illegal, suggestion.
3. Other sources of financial support for British students in the Netherlands
There may be study grants and scholarships available for certain courses but for EU nationals these are extremely rare. It is fair to say they are almost non-existent at undergraduate level. Still, it is worth checking out www.grantfinder.nl.
EU nationals should also be eligible for housing benefit so if you have your own rental contract you can apply for Huurtoeslag.