The Dutch educational philosophy is that everyone in the Netherlands has the right to an education suited to their talents and skills.
For this reason most degree programmes in the Netherlands are not selective, beyond requiring a high school diploma or equivalent, with some programmes requiring specific subjects. This is seen as sufficient proof of academic capability.
This does not mean that Dutch universities do not select at all. At the end of the first year students will receive a so-called Binding Study Advice (BSA). If students receive a negative BSA they will not be able to continue with their current study programme. Selection does thus not take place at the gate, but later, at the end of your first year. Dutch universities will give all students with the required academic capabilities, as shown by their secondary school diploma, a chance, but they need to prove themselves in their first year.
Since some students will not make it past their first year, it is particularly important for students to select the right programme for them.
Matching is a process run by each university that aims to help students decide if the programmes for which they’re applying will suit them. It is required for all Dutch students but is not required for all programmes for international students. If you need to do it, each university will invite you to do its matching process after you have applied and before you enroll.
Universities can choose how their matching process works – it might be taking online modules, doing a test, watching a lecture, doing a survey or writing an essay.
The results of matching are advisory – you can choose to ignore their advice. However universities strongly recommend that if the advice turns out negative, you apply for a different programme. Experience shows that students who get negative advice tend not to successfully graduate from the programme.
Whilst for most Dutch Universities, you will simply need to meet the admissions criteria to be admitted, there are a limited number of degree programmes that do have selective admissions.
When applying to an English-language programme at a Dutch university students will always be asked to provide proof of English proficiency, such as IELTS, TOEFL, CAE or CPE. Applicants who have completed a secondary education in English may be exempted from this requirement.
In order to study at a research university Dutch students need to pursue a so-called preparatory academic education (VWO) in secondary school. About 20% of all pupils obtains this diploma.
In order to study at a university of applied sciences, Dutch students need to pursue a so-called preparatory professional education (HAVO) in secondary school. About 30% of all pupils obtain this diploma.
International students applying to study at a Dutch university will be asked for an international equivalent of the required Dutch diploma.
Admission departments may have different admission requirements but generally the following are seen as equivalent to the Dutch VWO diploma. Entry requirements for other diplomas can be found at the website of the study programmes themselves:
- A-levels in 3 academic subjects with grades A-C
- International Baccalaureate Full Diploma – options with certificates may or not be admissible, contact the university for more details
- US High School Diploma including the College Board Preparatory programme European Baccalaureate (academic courses) with a minimum GPA of 3.5/4.0 plus either 3 or 4 College Board AP’s (grades 3-5)
Entry requirements to a Dutch university of applied sciences tend to be less demanding. The American high school diploma is for instance often admissible without APs and British school students may need fewer A-levels.
The exact admission requirements will be stated on the programme’s website and may include specific subjects.
When applying to a Dutch programme, applicants undertake the following steps:
1) Decide on a specific study programme at a specific institution. An overview of all programmes on offer in English can be found in Unifrog’s Europe Universities search tool.
2) Look up the specific admission requirements and procedures for the degree programme on the university website. Deadlines will differ and generally range from 1st January to 1st May. The selective programmes tend to have earlier deadlines, with numerus fixus programmes having a typical deadline of January 15.
3) Apply according to the instructions of the specific programme.
4) At some point in the process students will need to register in Studielink. Studielink is a registration system that is sometimes also used for applications. Students may be asked to apply through Studielink at the start of the application process but can also be asked to not register until they have decided on a programme and confirmed their place. The admissions office of the specific programme will explain which procedure to follow.
Students can register for up to four programmes in Studielink, only one or two of which can be numerus fixus (depending on the programme).