Universities in Amsterdam: Where to Study in the Dutch Capital | Student Reviews & University Rankings EDUopinions

Universities in Amsterdam: Where to Study in the Dutch Capital

30/04/2024

The Netherlands has it all when it comes to studying abroad: vibrant cities, beaches, affordable public transport, and an exciting, multicultural environment. And there’s no better place to study in the Netherlands than Amsterdam, the country’s capital. Universities in Amsterdam each have their own specialisms and unique student life, so to decide between them, it’s helpful to have an overview of each.

This breakdown of universities in Amsterdam will reveal the pros and cons of each university, helping you choose the best institution for you in the Dutch capital. And with help from EDUopinions student reviews, we reveal what students think about some of these universities.

First, let’s talk about why students would choose to study in the Netherlands.

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Why Study in the Netherlands?

Why Study in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of the most popular study abroad destinations in Europe. In the 2022/2023 academic year, 122,287 international students enrolled in state universities in the country – this is 15% of the entire country’s student population! And while the Dutch government is currently grappling with plans to curb student numbers, it’s not likely that the Netherlands will lose its prestigious status as one of the best study abroad destinations.

For one, Dutch universities occupy high positions in the top university rankings. Six universities in the Netherlands appear in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Dutch universities excel in multiple subjects, too,  so whether you want to study a STEM subject or history, you’ll find a top-ranking degree.

Another attraction for students is the high proportion of English speakers in the Netherlands. The unofficial second language, Dutch universities offer bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English, and most professionals are fluent. This means it’s easier to get a part-time job if you need to supplement your income, or stay on for work after your degree.

Finally, the Dutch lifestyle can be refreshing for students from both lively cities and rural areas. Dutch students balance their studies alongside an exciting events calendar, and international students usually have their own societies at Dutch universities. We can’t forget a mainstay of the student life: the borrel, a meetup for drinks and snacks at the end of the day.

The blend of intensive study experiences and a relaxed way of life in picturesque cities make the Netherlands a very popular study destination. Although there are many popular student cities in the country, Amsterdam attracts the most students thanks to its cultural heritage and proximity to other sights in the west of the country.

Breakdown of Universities in Amsterdam

Location of Universities in Amsterdam

University of Amsterdam – UvA

Universities in Amsterdam UvA

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) is the most prestigious university in the city. Ranked 61st in the world in the THE World University Rankings, it’s also ranked the best university in the country for humanities subjects like archeology, languages, and law, plus STEM subjects like medicine and psychology. However, it has developed a reputation for the quality of its humanities studies, and the university boasts alumni including Dutch writers and historians.

UvA’s four campuses are split across the UNESCO World Heritage city centre, the modern Roeterseiland, Amsterdam Science Park and Amsterdam University Medical Centre. This central university also boasts the most international students of Dutch institutions, with 13,800 enrolled in 2022.

Tuition fees – EU: €2,530 per year

Tuition fees – International: €10,000-€20,000 per year depending on faculty and degree level

Student Review – Psychology

BSc Psychology
Anastasia
Anastasia
NL
Immersion into the Research World

I believe that UvA is a wonderful university where opportunities are offered to you if you put in enough effort. For me, it was a great fit, as I am quite an independent student, however, the amount of contact hours is relatively low so this might be tricky for someone who needs a bit more encouragement and structure. I was particularly interested in the research side of my degree and this is exactly what I got. My program was really research-focused giving me a great scientific background for further studies.

Programme: BSc Psychology
Degree: Bachelor's
Graduation: 2022
Campus: Amsterdam
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Student Review – International Business

International Business
avatar
Anonymous student
CA
an excellent choice

The university is located in the center of Amsterdam, which is a beautiful and culturally diverse city that offers students a great quality of life. The university has a diverse student population and a strong international presence, making it an ideal choice for students who want to study abroad. The professors are knowledgeable and experienced, and the facilities are modern and well-equipped. The university also offers a variety of extracurricular activities and clubs, which provide students with the opportunity to explore their interests and meet new people. Overall, the University of Amsterdam is an excellent choice for students seeking a high-quality education in a dynamic and stimulating environment.

Programme: International Business
Degree: Master's
Graduation: 2022
Campus: Amsterdam
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Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

VU Amsterdam

Just outside the top 100 universities in the world is Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), the main rival of UvA. On a large campus in the south of the historic city centre, VU is easily accessible from the city centre and Schipol Airport. Outside the city, students will find a lower cost of living and good public transport links to the rest of the Netherlands.

The majority of VU Master’s programmes are in English, and specialisms offered across social sciences, humanities, and traditional STEM subjects. Despite being as academically rigorous as UvA, students might find teaching methods differ at VU considering the university’s focus on practice and research.

Tuition fees – EU: €2,530 per year

Tuition fees – International: €10,000-€20,000 per year depending on faculty and degree level

Student Review – Literature

literature and ...
culture
Tessa
Tessa
A time of nostalgia and chaos

If I were to describe my time at the VU, I would say it was a warm, happy time, which was also crucial for my development as an adult and a critical thinker. Having studied literature, the courses and lecturers not only exposed me to genres and authors I had not even heard of before, but also helped me engage in debate, analysis and discussion on more traditional and classic literature. I felt listened to and taken seriously, which in turn motivated me to think my answers and standpoints through. This all led to a newfound appreciation for my passions and what literature in society can do.
However, I will warn those who enjoy structure and timetables, as it is not uncommon for students to send their lecturers and heads of department 3-4 emails before receiving a response. It’s a large university and as a result, there will be some chaos.

Programme: literature and culture
Degree: Bachelor's
Graduation: 2019
Campus: Amsterdam
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Student Review – Psychology

Psychology
avatar
Anonymous student
Good program

I liked the program and learned a lot! The professors were very good and the tutors were really lovely and helpful! The courses were interesting and diverse. There are a lot of international students so it is easy to make friends even if you are from abroad. The program was challenging at times but I believe it is a good base to continue to master’s programs. The accommodation situation is a nightmare in Amsterdam so be prepared for that, the university also cannot help everyone with accommodation.

Programme: Psychology
Degree: Bachelor's
Graduation: 2023
Campus: Amsterdam
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Amsterdam University of the Arts

Conservatorium van Amsterdam

Amsterdam University of the Arts (AHK) is another option in the Dutch capital for students who wish to study a specialist programme in a creative subject. The institution is actually comprised of six separate academies, each of which specialises in a different subject: Breitner Academy (art education), Academy of Architecture, Conservatorium van Amsterdam (music), Netherlands Film Academy, Reinwardt Academy (cultural heritage), and the Academy of Theatre and Dance.

Although AHK is more Dutch-language-focused than other universities in Amsterdam, there are still quite a few English degrees available. Considering the niche focus of these programmes (for example, Fine Art in Education or Choreography), this is the place for students who know exactly what they want to do with their career and have the commitment to pursue a practical degree.

Tuition fees – EU: €2,530 per year

Tuition fees – International: €6,500-€9,540 per year depending on academy and degree level

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (hogeschool van Amsterdam)

Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences is technically a hogeschool (or HBO) a level of the Dutch education system that indicates a university geared towards practical subjects. HBOs typically offer four-year bachelor programmes, as well as one-year Master’s degrees. Fees are also typically lower at HBOs than formal universities, making them more accessible.

At Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, students can study a limited number of English-language courses, all with a practical element. For example, the university offers bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, digital design, and sports studies. The university has locations across the city, but most buildings are located at the Amstel campus, just a short walk from the city centre.

Tuition fees – EU: €2,530 per year

Tuition fees – International: €10,001 per year

Student Review – Computer Science

Computer Science
Ana
Ana
ES
Solving a tech issue

Computer science being as broad and kind of on a spectrum makes teaching it a bit tricky, I hated that some of the material being taught in my classes were easily obtainable online, but I think This university has figured out a way around that. The lecturers use a method called “self code experience” where any problem that is found in the curriculum you have to engage it yourself and in class. This brings back the zeal to actually learn coding and not just take it off the internet.

Programme: Computer Science
Degree: Bachelor's
Graduation: 2026
Campus: Amsterdam
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Student Review – International Business

International Business
Kyle
Kyle
NL
Greatest worst experience?

After experiencing 4 years at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, I would not say I’m at the greatest university in the world. On a personal level I would 100% recommend my university and think it is an amazing place to get to know people from different cultures and in general I think most people would feel comfortable in my university. Moreover, I think the campus looks great and has very good facilities to study, do school exercises, or just hang with friends. Furthermore, I think Amsterdam is an amazing city and the campuses are close to the centre. The school is in a great environment and you can easily get to know Amsterdam. In general the level of classes is pretty good, the English level for international students in my opinion is also good, the only thing is that sometimes the teachers can be a bit lazy and the structure is sometimes a bit difficult to understand. Some teachers at times are not clear and due to the shortage of teachers, teachers are overwhelmed and do not have time to respond to all students. However, if you study, listen in class, pass your classes. Amsterdam is the place to be!

Programme: International Business
Degree: Bachelor's
Graduation: 2023
Campus: Amsterdam
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Amsterdam University College

Amsterdam University College

At Amsterdam University College, students can study an American-style Liberal Arts and Sciences degree conferred by UvA and VU. Given that this is a private university, expect higher tuition fees, but this is counteracted by small class sizes and a more selective programme, with freedom to choose electives and majors.

Students follow a broad study programme across the arts and sciences across three year’s, leading to a BA/BSc joint degree. The university has its own campus in Amsterdam East, where Dutch and international students can live together in student residencies. If you’re not sure what field to specialise in during your Master’s, and want the freedom that an American-style Honours programme offers, then this may be the right choice for you.

Tuition fees – EU: €4,940 per year

Tuition fees – International: €13,970 per year

Accommodation: €4,920 per year

Gerrit Rietveld Academie

Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam University

Gerrit Rietveld Academie is a small, independent university of applied sciences specialising in Fine Art and Design. The university offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in the creative arts; students first today a broad, formative year, then follow a specialisation in one of the 12 departments of the university. There are also two Master’s degrees available, in Fine Art & Design and Interior Architecture.

If you’re interested in a career specifically in the applied arts, then this university is ideal. The institution has its own gallery, and students can choose from niche subjects such as jewellery making, ceramics, and photography. Delivered in English, the degree attracts creative minds from the Netherlands and the world, so you could be studying with the future’s best artists.

Tuition fees – EU: €3,030 per year

Tuition fees – International: €8,792 per year

Conclusion

Although Amsterdam itself is a small capital compared to places like Paris or London, there are still plenty of universities to choose from! Deciding one one will require you to think about your career goals, current interest, and your priorities for study. Are you interested in having an active student life in the centre of the city, close to clubs and cultural institutions? Or would you prefer to study on a close-knit campus outside the city centre?

Whichever university you choose, you’re guaranteed to fit in in the Netherlands. The country ranks among the 10 best for students, thanks to its international outlook and the location of its best universities.

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Written by
Abigail
Abigail is a freelance writer specialising in higher education. She has lived in London and the Netherlands, and has a Masters degree in American Studies.

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