Why are so many Irish students now opting to study in the Netherlands?

There are now more than 1,000 Irish students registered on degree programmes, taught through English, in Dutch universities. Dutch admissions officers are reporting to EUNICAS that this number is likely to be significantly higher this September.

This phenomenon is radically changing the palette of third-level opportunities available to Irish students who can now access a wide range of programmes in institutions with a very high international reputation, at a cost lower than studying at home. “The numbers enrolling in Dutch universities, and in other continental European universities, represents a refreshing opportunity for Irish students seeking an alternative outside the troubled third-level sector in Ireland. Significant numbers of students are rejecting offers from high-points courses, to accept offers from Dutch universities,” said Guy Flouch of EUNiCAS (www.eunicas.ie ), the Irish-based European Universities Application and Support service. So why The Netherlands? Firstly, these are excellent programmes in highly-ranked (11 are higher ranked than UCD ) and well-resourced institutions.

Secondly, Dutch universities don’t select for entry based on Leaving Cert points. In The Netherlands, you have a right to an education, and some 90 per cent of programmes don’t even have a selection procedure: you make the minimum entry requirements, and you are in. Even for those with a selection procedure, grades are not the only selection criteria. There is even an entry route for students, over 21, who don’t have formal entry requirements.

Irish students currently studying there warn that despite entry being easy, you have to work hard to stay there. There are tests and assignments every eight weeks which help you keep in touch, and you get support and advice during the year but if, despite this, you fail first year, you are out.

Next, tuition fees which, at €2,083, are already very low, can be recouped by way of an interest-free loan from the Dutch government. You have 15 years to repay, after you graduate. Not only can students take their SUSI grant with them, but there is further financial support from the Dutch government, through support towards living expenses. Add to that the attractiveness of graduates from these institutions to employers, in an increasingly globalised employment market, with their international perspectives and networks, and the high levels of independence and self-esteem they acquire, Irish students are now enrolling in Dutch research universities, all of which are higher-ranked than UCD, following programmes in areas such as psychology, law, politics, engineering, business, science, and arts and culture.

They are also being attracted to the excellent applied universities (UAS ), which are more practical employment-focused institutions offering qualifications in areas such as physiotherapy, teaching, business, art and design, IT, hotel management, engineering, and media.

Whereas the first wave of Irish students going to The Netherlands were largely attracted by the more academic research universities, increasing numbers are now enrolling with the UAS (for example, there are more than 60 Irish first-year physiotherapy students ) where they appreciate a more practical, hands-on style of learning, including one or two internships. So, high quality, no points, low cost, good employment prospects. Add to that safe, healthy, cities and a relaxed lifestyle. It is no surprise, really, that so many are going.

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