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When she was doing her graduation in pharmacy from Gujarat University, Pranali Buch already knew that she wanted to do a research masters and had started looking out for a foreign university she could do it from. Her father, who often visited the Netherlands on work, suggested she take a look at Maastricht University. A little online research helped her pick her subject — research master in cardiovascular biology and medicine — and she applied. A telephonic interview later not only did Buch bag a place at Maastricht but also the University of Maastricht High Potential Scholarship.

Welcome to the lowlands, to the country of Rembrandt, Erasmus and Van Gogh. In May 2011 the Netherlands, known popularly as Holland, was ranked the “happiest” country in a survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. And Indians who go there to study definitely have reasons to be happy as living expenses and tuition fees there are lower than in the UK or the US. With its quality education and comparatively low cost of living, Holland offers true value for money, especially since higher education is subsidised. The government is attempting to make higher education as accessible as possible to foreign students so the country’s more than 1,560 study programmes are all taught in English. At last count, there were 81,700 international students in Holland.

Last year about 750 Indians went to study in the Netherlands. “Majority of the international students — about 70 per cent — do masters, 20 per cent pursue bachelors and merely 10 per cent opt for PhD in the Netherlands,” says Amita Patel, education promotion officer, NBSO-Neso Desk India (Netherlands Business Support Office). The most popular subjects are science and technical courses.

The institution that is quite popular with science students from India is Maastricht University. “The system of problem-based learning means that throughout your education you develop skills that you will find useful later on,” says Rein de Wilde, dean, the faculty of arts and social sciences, Maastricht University.

Currently there are 40 Indians studying at Maastricht. An estimated 550 students are also registered at other publicly funded Dutch higher education programmes. “Our research focus is on societal challenges, constituting an inspiring environment in which talents can flourish to make the world a better place,” says Gerard Mols, rector magificus, Maastricht University.

“I studied medicine, followed by special training in cardiology from Narayana Hrudayalaya Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Bangalore. I wanted specialised training, and I was offered a PhD fellowship in heart arrhythmias here,” says Narendra Kumar who is studying at the Maastricht University Medical Centre.

Apart from Masstricht, the University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University and Leiden University are also popular for their quality science courses.

Foreign students should first contact the institution that offers the programme they want to join. The eligibility for admission to a bachelors programme is a secondary-school diploma. Foreign students must have a diploma judged equivalent to the minimum diploma required. There are also study programmes — in the arts for example — for which institutions set their own additional requirements. For admission to a master programme, applicants must have a bachelors degree or equivalent. In case you have a three-year degree while the institute requires a four-year one, you can do a one-year bridge course.

The duration of a masters degree is one to two years and bachelors is four years. In certain popular fields, the number of places is limited and quotas are set. It is essential for foreign students to pass an English language test. IELTS and TOEFL are commonly accepted, but institutions may accept other tests as well. The required scores are at least 550 (paper based) or 213 (computer based) for TOEFL. For IELTS a score of 6 is required.

PhD degrees are only offered by research universities, which they award based on vacancies. One can find more information on the website Euraxess.nl. The universities of applied sciences (hogescholen) offer programmes that focus on the practical application of arts and sciences. If you are looking for funding, check out www.nesoindia.org/students /scholarships that has information on a clutch of Dutch scholarships for international students. Another useful website for scholarships is the one of the Netherlands organisation for international cooperation in higher education (www.nuffic.nl).

The average annual tuition fees for a degree programme or course at a Dutch higher education institution start at 8,000 Euros for non-EU students.

The easiest and cheapest way to study in the Netherlands is through an exchange programme. Many Dutch universities have exchange agreements with partner institutions in countries throughout the world. Exchange programmes and agreements are usually limited to specific fields or disciplines.

An international student in the Netherlands develops a pragmatic approach to problems and realises the importance of originality and creativity. It’s a multicultural environment and any foreign student has to adapt to the biking culture, weather uncertainty and sometimes direct but honest opinions. Netherlands is extremely liberal, tolerant and one of the most modern countries of the world and hence it hardly takes time for newcomers to assimilate.

The tally of daily expenses will include food, public transport, books, clothes and movie tickets, besides the cost of housing and insurance. On an average, students will have to spend between 800 and 1,100 Euros a month.

However, expenses will depend on the city where you study, the services that are included in the rent as well as the arrangements made by your institution. Housing in Amsterdam for example is more expensive than in smaller towns. It is advisable to check what bills are included in the rent— while some apartments include gas, electricity, TV and Internet charges in the rent, in others you are expected to pay them separately.

Most higher education institutions offer hot meals at reasonable rates. Many cities have pubs (eetcafés) where you can eat cheaply and well. But the cheapest is to do your own cooking. For cheap travel, buying a discount card for train tickets — which gives you a 40 per cent reduction in fares during off-peak times — is a good idea.

Foreign students who would like to work in the Netherlands are allowed to do so. Depending on your nationality, you can work for a limited number of hours per week and only if the employer has applied for a work permit for you. Incidentally, acquiring work experience through internships is an integral part of professional study programmes offered in Dutch institutes.

After you complete your course, getting a job is not too tough either. Dutch degrees are recognised all over the world. There are a lot of life sciences companies in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. If you learn an European language, it’s possible to get a decent job in Europe. There are also excellent opportunities for PhD in the Netherlands and Germany.

Top universities

Utrecht University - www.uu.nl/EN/Pages/

Leiden University -www.leiden.edu/

Wageningen University- www.wur.nl/UK/

Delft University- home.tudelft.nl/en/

University of Amsterdam -www.english.uva.nl/start.cfm

Maastricht University -www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/

Popular courses Engineering, agriculture, water technology, architecture & urban planning, law, social sciences

WHAT'S HOT

Excellent education and research, more than 1,500 study programmes, getting jobs is easier


WHAT'S NOT

Harsh winter, Dutch people are very straightforward, cost of living expensive without scholarships