Home Student Life Best Universities in Amsterdam. Written By The Student.

Best Universities in Amsterdam. Written By The Student.

by Micaela Zaslabsky

Amsterdam is one of the world’s favourite cities for everything: family holidays, romantic trips, bachelor parties and of course, student exchange. It is not only a city of fun but a city of prestige with world-ranked top universities such as the UvA and VU Amsterdam. The two best universities in Amsterdam are:

  1. Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA): QS Top 62th University in the World and US News Best Global Universities 20th.
  2. Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam (VU): QS Top 219th University with one of the highest scores for research studies and English speaking programmes
Universiteit van Amsterdam || Photo Courtesy of the University of Amsterdam || Facebook Profile

In general, Amsterdam is considered by the QS Top Universities the number 24th city to do your studies in 2020. If you want to know more about the prestige of the city and these two universities, keep reading this article. You will learn about: studying in the Netherlands, advantages, rankings and more.

International Universities

One of the keys to be considered in international ranking and having a top 100 score in QS Top Universities in the world, something that the city of Amsterdam offers are International Universities. This means several things:

  • English Speaking Programmes: It is key to be considered a good university to offer English programmes on BA degrees as well as MA degrees.
  • International Staff: the number of professors and collaborators that work with the university as well as the partnerships with other universities is equally as important.
  • Partnership: as I was saying, it is important. Mostly because most programmes ask you to either do an internship, international experience or some sort of exchange. The amount of contacts they have is key for students.
  • Facilities: Updated labs for language and science programmes, updated resources…
  • Publications: the research orientation of the universities is also key to be ranked on the top 100 in the world, the relevance of the publications, the frequency, the quality, the variety. It is not only an advantage to work with professionals who publish but also an opportunity for you as a student.

In Amsterdam, there are two Internationally Recognised Universities: UvA & VU. These two are in the top 10 universities in the country according to Times Higher Education Ranking (2020).

The UvA is the second-best university in the Netherlands after Wageningen University || Photo Courtesy of the University of Amsterdam || Facebook Profile

The UvA is the second-best university after Wageningen University. Of course, each university has specific programmes that make them especially good for you if you are interested in something in particular, yet there is always prestige to take into consideration.

Besides having all this international recognition, these two universities are also student’s first choice because of its privileged location in one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, Amsterdam.

TOP 10: UvA

The Universiteit van Amsterdam is without a doubt a prestigious university and worldwide known. It is one of the first choices of international students due to the prestige and the wide English taught programmes as well as Dutch students. These are the international rankings where the UvA has been ranked:

Universiteit van Amsterdam || Photo Courtesy of the University of Amsterdam || Facebook Profile
  • TopUniversities Ranking (2020): UvA, 2nd in the Netherlands, 64th in the world.
  • U.S. News & World Report Ranking (2020): UvA 1st in the NL, 50th in the world.
  • Times Higher Education Ranking (2020): UvA 2nd in the NL, 62nd in the world.

Besides all the reasons we have shared above of why these two universities are highly ranked internationally, there are specific reasons for each university that make them particularly interesting for potential students, PhD candidates, master students and exchanges. About the UvA we know:

  1. Largest University in the Netherlands: 30,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates.
  2. Prestige since 1632: one of the oldest universities in Europe.
  3. Campus Location: one of the big advantages that the UvA has over most universities all over the world is its location. Most old buildings are in the historic centre of Amsterdam, which makes it even more special and, somehow, prestigious.
  4. English programmes: over 15 English BA and most MA are in English. They offer over 100 programmes.
  5. International Campus: the UvA collaborates with citizens from over 100 nationalities, which makes it a unique melting pot of cultures.

If you want to know more about the UvA you can check their own website or check out all the articles I have written about the UvA with my personal experience:

TOP 10: VU

The Vrije Universiteit is an institution also on the top 100 in the world and the top 10 in the Netherlands. As much as it cannot be compared to the UvA in prestige, it is a university that in the past 200 years has been growing and updating its programmes to end up being internationally recognised. These are the ranking that grow every year:

Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam (VU) || Photo Courtesy of the Vrije Universiteit || Facebook Profile
  • U.S. News & World Report (2020): VU is in the 82nd.
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University (2019): number 101 in the world
  • Times Higher Education (2020): number 138 in the world ranking.

What makes the VU a well-qualified international university? What can this university offer you that others cannot? The VU is a 200-years old research university that also offers programmes for BA students, MA students and PhD researchers. These are some of the characteristics that make it special:

Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam (VU) || Photo Courtesy of the Vrije Universiteit || Facebook Profile
  1. Location: besides not being as centric as the UvA is, it is still located in Amsterdam, everybody’s first choice.
  2. English Speaking Programmes: over 170 English-taught programmes, the highest number in the whole country, ideal for international careers or international students.
  3. Internationality:  Students and staff of over 84 different nationalities, adding to the Amsterdam melting pot of 200 cultures.
  4. Medical Infrastructure: since the University offers medicine programmes and has its own hospital, provides staff and students of free medical care if these are residing in Amsterdam.
  5. Campus: something rare in the Netherlands due to space issues and a big advantage for students, mostly when you come from abroad.

AMSTERDAM: City Ranking by Students

According to Top University Rankings, Amsterdam is considered to be the 24th best city for students. It doesn’t only have 2 of the top 100 universities in the world but it has a lot of things of its own that make it especially good for students. Among these we can highlight:

  • Quality of Life: in general, the Netherlands is a wealthy country with a socialistic Government that helps with scholarships and Government funds to students, including health insurance, lower tuitions, etc.
  • Student Comunity: having an international and open-minded environment is ideal for any student to develop their personalities and fulfil their curiosities. Is there a better city than Amsterdam for this?
  • Job Opportunities: Amsterdam is the headquarter for many international Dutch and foreign companies. It is the best opportunity for an internship or a job in museums, prestigious companies like Heineken, ING banks, KLM, tourism and hospitality
  • Language: unlike other European countries, you can speak English not only at an academic context but also everywhere else. Amsterdam is one of the countries with the highest number of English speakers in the world, ideal for anyone to live there and create a life.
  • Communication and Location: It is the hub city of half of Europe with flight connections to the whole world, train system and close to everywhere else in Europe.

Normally, these rankings are carried out through surveys of all the students and staff members of the university. In this case, both universities are considered.

Studying in the Netherlands

Last year I wrote a Complete Guide to study in the Netherlands, where I explain my experienced and what I have learnt: from tuition fees to finding accommodations, the way lectures are given, language requirements, issues, etc.

Which one of these characteristics makes these universities the best of the Netherlands and some of the best in the world?

Didactical Methods

All 10 best universities in the country have a very peculiar way of teaching, unique compared to other European universities:

  • Small-groups: and I mean less than 15 people to work with to have a chance to speak up and share your ideas.
  • Closeness: the report between professor and student is equal, making valid the experience and knowledge of the student as much as the professors’.
  • Autonomy: this is a risky one if you are used to having someone on top of you to be able to be productive, but great if you are eager to learn and have the freedom to develop your own path.
  • Block system: inside your own degree you are allowed to choose what subjects you are going to take every 6 weeks. This can help you change your mind and be flexible and explore new horizons.


One of the things that first-year students don’t think about is the public image and international voice of the university. Through publications and citations, we can understand the prestige and importance of the work that university does to contribute on a scientific level.

According to the World University Ranking, the city of Amsterdam with its 2 universities has a 91.2 score out of 100 on citations and mentioned publications in international magazines and research-oriented publications.

On the other hand, the International Outlook of the universities goes up to a 82.0 out of 100, a pretty decent one.

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