Study History in The Netherlands

Study History in English in Holland

Currently, history is only taught entirely in English at seven research universities in the Netherlands, all of which are ranked in the world’s top 200. Six offer Master’s programmes, while Bachelor’s degrees are available at four.

1. Will my history degree from a Dutch university be recognised?

As history is not a degree that lends itself necessarily to a particular profession, it is only essential to ensure that your degree is of a suitable standard. All history degree programmes in the Netherlands are accredited by NVAO and therefore should be considered as good as their equivalents in the UK.

2. Does it make sense to study history in the Netherlands?

It really depends on what you want to get out of your history degree.

If you are mainly interested in British history, Dutch universities are not really viable options because they do not offer courses on this topic.

If you are keen to learn about European and world history, studying in Holland might be an excellent choice. You may be surprised to find that the curricula of history degrees at Dutch universities do not solely focus on Dutch history but span Europe, Asia, the Middle East and globalisation.

On top of that, the Netherlands is currently the only country in Europe where you can study history entirely in English.

3. Where can I study history in English in the Netherlands?

At undergraduate level, history is taught in English at four Dutch universities: University of Groningen, Utrecht University, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Tilburg University. Before applying, make sure you understand the unique curriculum of each programme and whether it fits with your career ambitions.

Here are a few points of comparison between the four programmes.

Firstly, the Bachelor’s degrees in History at the University of Groningen, Utrecht University and Erasmus University Rotterdam are all full degree programmes that take three years to complete. Although you may take a minor in another subject, most of the courses you take while at university will be related to history. On the other hand, Tilburg University only offers a major called BA in Humanities: European History and Culture within their Liberal Arts and Sciences undergraduate programme. This means you will only specialise in history in the last two years of a three-year degree programme. In the first year, you are required to complete both sciences and humanities courses.

Secondly, there are two different approaches to teaching and learning history in the Netherlands: in chronological order and in themes. The degree programme at Erasmus University Rotterdam follows the latter, while the history curriculum at the University of Groningen, Utrecht University and Tilburg University offer a blend of the two. In your first year as a history student at Erasmus University Rotterdam, beside theoretical and methodological classes, you will take thematic historical courses, none of which is structured around a particular historical period. From the second year onward, you will pick courses of four focus areas: economic history, international relations, cultural history and social history. Focusing on themes allows you to synthesise a bigger picture of the main issues facing society throughout history and establish links between historical and contemporary developments.  In contrast, if you attend the University of Groningen, Utrecht University and Tilburg University, the first two semesters will emphasise important historical events and developments from Antiquity to modern times. A grasp of chronology is a fundamental skill of any historian, as it provides a sense of context to historical events and helps you understand their cause and effect. Therefore, you will focus on critical thinking of historical narratives rather than historical synthesis.

Thirdly, you can only study Dutch history as a separate module at the University of Groningen and Erasmus University Rotterdam. The major BA in Humanities: European History and Cultureat Tilburg University concentrates exclusively on Europe's history, while Utrecht University offers some courses on postcolonial world order from a non-European perspective.

Finally, the history curriculum at Utrecht University is geared toward specialisation to prepare students for a Master’s programme, while the other three universities offer a broader curriculum. In particular, Utrecht University not only allows students to choose between History trackand International Relations in Historical Perspective track, but also designs various specialisations within each track to encourage students to study a small number of topics in great depth. On the other hand, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Tilburg University and the University of Groningen’s curricula are, though centred around societal, economic, political and cultural themes, comprised of generic courses covering a wider range of topics and therefore might be suitable for students who do not like specialist training at undergraduate level.

You can study history in English at postgraduate level at the following six Dutch universities:

  • University of Groningen
  • Leiden University
  • Utrecht University
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • University of Amsterdam
  • Radboud University

Unlike Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees tend to focus on specific knowledge areas and qualify students for specific career paths.

For example, the postgraduate programmes in Ancient History at the University of Groningen, Leiden University and the University of Amsterdam, and the Eternal Rome programme at Radboud University are the ideal choices for those passionate about a particular historical period.

On the other hand, if you want to become an expert in thematic history, you should consider the History of Politics and Society programme at Utrecht University or the History of Society - Global History and International Relations programme at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Interested in the history of a geographical area? Check out the European History and Civilisation and History, Arts and Culture of Asia programmes at Leiden University, or Cultural History of Modern Europe at Utrecht University.

But what if you don’t think of history as something divided chronologically and geographically? What if you prefer to learn the foundations, practices and culture of another discipline from a historical perspective? The two programmes History of Architecture and Town Planning at the University of Groningen and History and Philosophy of the Sciences at Leiden University are designed exactly for this purpose.

4. Where are the best places to study History in the Netherlands?

Rankings shouldn’t necessarily be an important factor when you make university choices, but we have designed the table below to provide you a rough guide to the relative “quality” of history degrees in the Netherlands.


The Times Higher Education Overall Ranking

The Times Higher Education Ranking in History

QS Subject Ranking in History

University of Amsterdam




Erasmus University Rotterdam




Leiden University




University of Groningen




Utrecht University




Radboud University




Tilburg University





In addition to The Times Higher Education and QS league tables, you can find information about the quality of history courses at Dutch universities on the National Student Survey, Keuzegids Bachelor's Selection Guide and Elsevier Best Studies. However, these three sources are only available in Dutch

5. What grades do I need to get in?

In order to be considered for any undergraduate programmes, including History, at a research university in the Netherlands, you must have at least 3 A levels. We would recommend a minimum of BBB.

For Master’s degrees it is usually necessary to have a 2.1 or better from an equivalent university in the UK. Your Bachelor’s degree should ordinarily have been in history or a very closely related discipline.

Similar courses

About Study In Holland is an information service designed to assist British and Irish students in pursuing their university education in the Netherlands.

We have extensive knowledge of English-taught degrees in Holland and we also work with careers advisory services. is owned by A Star Future Ltd and is not affiliated with the Dutch government.