Dutch educational style

The contents and structure of your study programme may be different from what is customary in your country. Most foreign students experience the entry level differently compared to other students. Perhaps you have mastered skills that are not required in the Netherlands and lack some skills that are needed such as selective and critical reading and academic writing.

The main characteristics of the Dutch educational style are:

Having your own opinion

Having your own opinion and being critical of ideas is highly appreciated in the Dutch educational system. At a young age, kids are already being encouraged to develop their own ideas and take a critical view. You will be expected to make your own selection of information sources, develop your own line of thinking and include your own conclusions and/or recommendations.


Students are expected to be visible participants in class, take part in discussions and show what they are intellectually capable of. Displaying your critical-thinking skills to lecturers and fellow students is considered to be more important than being loyal to other students as a group. This direct approach may be amplified somewhat by the fact that, generally, the Dutch speak English quite well, but not everyone is always capable of expressing their thoughts politely in English.

Equality The equality of all human beings is a fundamental value for most people in Dutch society. Differences in class, wealth, status, sex or race should never influence the atmosphere in the classroom. Whatever the background of students may be, everybody should be treated equally.


Research universities and universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands expect their students to be independent. You will be expected to determine a study strategy that suits you the best.

Rules are rules

Within the Dutch society rules and regulations are very important. Dutch society is based on rules. Exceptions to these rules, especially for individuals, are rare. To the Dutch rules are there to guarantee fair and equal treatment for everyone.

Active learning

Active learning is the preferred approach in the Netherlands. That means that you will have to ask yourself questions and try to find the answers by studying and researching. Memorising and reproducing study material is considered only to be the first step of the process. This should be followed by analysing your 'own opinions' and 'being critical' of ideas, but also by interaction in class.

Interaction in class

Interaction in class is highly appreciated. You will be expected to think about the knowledge that is presented to you and develop and express your own opinion. Don’t be passive, ask questions instead and be critical about what lecturers or fellow students say to be true.