The Netherlands, or Holland as it is popularly known, is a constitutional monarchy with one of the most stable economies in all of Europe. The capital city of the Netherlands is Amsterdam but the seat of the government is at The Hague.
With a population of nearly 16.5 million people, the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. Nearly a third of the Netherlands is below sea-level and for a long time the Dutch constructed dykes and barricades to ensure that their lands do not get flooded by sea-water.
Nearly 40% of the country's population lives in the area known as the Randstad — this area is made up of cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Languages like Dutch, German and English are spoken by people in this region.
The Netherlands is home to world-famous companies like Philips, Unilever, Rabobank, KPMG, Endemol, Elsevier and more. This proves once again that it is not the size of a nation, but the ambitions of its people that contribute to its economic growth.
Over the years, the Netherlands has changed from being just an industrial and tourist centre, and has become a hub for higher education thanks to their friendly immigration laws and easy visa processing. This is largely because since the early 1990s, leading Dutch institutions have begun offering a select few courses to international students, which are taught in English.
The Netherlands is renowned for its technical, scientific and engineering courses. Five Dutch universities feature in the world's top 100 universities as per the latest QS Rankings:
- University of Amsterdam – 55th position internationally
- Delft University of Technology - 64th position internationally
- Utrecht University - 94th position internationally
- Leiden University - 95th position internationally
- Erasmus University, Rotterdam - 92nd position internationally
Should you Study in the Netherlands?
Most students do not have the Netherlands in their list of study abroad destinations because they think that the courses are taught in Dutch; and they will have to learn a new language and focus on learning the nuances of the Dutch language. This is true to a certain extent as a majority of the institutions offer their courses in Dutch, but since the 1990s, more and more premier Dutch institutions are offering a select few courses taught in English for international students. This does not mean that the student should not learn Dutch. Picking up a new language is useful and one may even land a job in the Netherlands on completion of the course.
- The courses are extremely challenging and are designed for the best minds.
- Opportunities for postgraduate research in areas like electronics, computer science and engineering are high.
- Limited scholarships are offered by most institutions.
- The standard of living is quite high, but opting for accommodation in student hostels or a home-stay will enable students to save money.
- Being a progressive economy the prices of essential commodities are high, but one can save money by shopping at weekly farmer markets that are held in most major towns.
Living in the Netherlands
Student life in Netherlands can be really exciting. The Dutch are a friendly bunch of people who love football, fine art, technology, good food and drinks. People visiting the Netherlands from Asia can expect a culture shock. The consumption of 'soft drugs' is legal and hash burgers are popular, lesbian and gay rights are respected seriously and no discrimination is made. The Dutch are seriously progressive thinkers and there is a genuine respect for the state and the law.
Places to visit
The Holland Pass is the best way to enjoy all the leading tourist sites in Holland. The pass allows you discounts and other benefits when travelling and sight-seeing.
Here are some of the most popular tourist-spots in the Netherlands.
- The flower fields of Leiden and Den Helder and the tulip gardens along the route from Leiden to Haarlem are must-visit sites. Cycling down the road adjoining the tulip fields is a special experience.
- The canals of Amsterdam are as picturesque as the canals of Venice. The 17th century canal ring area in Amsterdam is a UNESCO certified heritage site.
- The Royal Palace and the Museum are iconic landmarks. The 350-year old Royal Palace is a witness to many of the historical moments that changed the political scenario of Europe.
- The Van Gogh Museum attracts over 1.5 million visitors every year —a remarkable feat considering that Van Gogh only sold one painting when he was alive. Most visitors combine this visit along with a trip to the Rijksmuseum.
Courses with a Focus on Research
The Netherlands is in no way less expensive than the UK. In many aspects, the cost of living is the same. Students who wish to try something different and explore life in a beautiful country with a focus on top-notch research-centric courses might wish to apply to study in the Netherlands.