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Is It Hard To Get Into Amsterdam University?

by Micaela Zaslabsky

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) has been classified for several years now on the QS Global World Ranking as one of the 100 best in the world. In fact, it is number 57 and it keeps rising through the ranks! This amazing position on a global scale and the wonderful location of its headquarters are more than appealing.

Becoming a student of the University of Amsterdam as well as any other Dutch university is relatively easy, the hard part is staying. Most demanded courses such as Law and Medicine are harder and have more requirements such as admission exams, but everybody is given a chance.

The idea of being hard to get into college is exclusively Anglo-Saxon: American and British ranking talk about the difficulties students have to go through in order to enter college, whereas in the rest of Europe, other factors are considered to rank a university. However, that doesn’t mean that European students have it easier, they face different kinds of difficulties.

How Can I Get Into The University of Amsterdam?

The University of Amsterdam is a public high education institution with a very high research output, and it is one of the 19 so-called Research Universities. It offers over 200 programmes in English and a very international environment with over 2,500 international students. Its headquarters are located in the centre of Amsterdam, well-connected to the rest of the Netherlands and surrounded by over 180 different nationalities.

Getting into any Dutch university is relatively easy: the concept of a hard-to-get-in belongs to the Anglo-Saxon culture, not the Dutch one. American and British universities have a long list of requirements students have to meet in order to enter their universities. For good or for bad, Dutch universities are open to everybody who wants to study:

There is NO elitism, the University of Amsterdam is not Oxford or Cambridge, names don’t really mean anything and you can create a name of your own once you are there.

There is NO need to meet a minimum level of income, if you are a good student and meet the requirements you can even apply for grants or scholarships offered by the Government or those offered by the UvA.

It does NOT matter who your family is or where you come from, if only, what matters is how hard you have worked on your previous education: like in any other institution, meeting the minimum requirements and having relatively high grades (let’s say higher than a 7/10) is something very important.

The only things you will need in order to be eligible for a programme are solid proof of academic ability, your diploma and the specific requirements of your programme of choice.

Photo Courtesy of Guilhem Vellut || Flickr

Most Dutch universities are harder to get in, and those students who would like to attend to Utrecht University, Leiden University and Groningen University will have to meet the restricted list of requirements based on their academic ability since these universities are the most prestigious one. The rest of the institutions, including the UvA, tend to be more flexible and entrance depends on the number of attendance, programme-specific requirements. Independently from its ideal location and the lack of campus and student facilities, this university accepts up to 30,000 students every year, so the number of places doesn’t tend to be a problem.

Having said that, the quality difference among universities in the Netherlands is rather small. I have studied at Utrecht University and the University of Amsterdam myself, and there is no real difference in the quality of the lectures and the way the system is organised. This makes it easy for Dutch students to decide where to go based on distance, availability of programme or just because, instead of only having the chance to study where they get accepted.

Easy to Get In, Not so Easy to Stay

First of all, the way the Dutch education system is organised makes it hard for students who are not ready to study to make it until the end. Students have to get at least 45 out of the 60 credits every year, meaning 75% of their subjects need to be passed (with a minimum of 5,5 out of 10). This makes it possible for them to end up studying for only one more year: if your programme is 3 years long and you fail 25% in each year, you will only have to add one more year. This is very important because the first BA or MA you do in the country is being subsidised by the Dutch Government making students pay only the statutory fee. This is also the case for the UvA.

All in all, the University of Amsterdam is not so hard to get in, but it is very hard to adapt to the Dutch system: very autonomous.

When it comes to following a programme in the UvA, planning is key. At the very beginning of the course, you will have the feeling that there is no pressure, but that is part of the idea. Managing your own time and being your own boss are some of the key abilities you will have to learn to survive the whole degree. If you are used to professors asking you to do your homework and sending you emails or remainders, forget about it, it will be up to you to handle everything on time and the way they want it.

Autonomous working is key, and you will have to learn abilities such as group work and how to organise your time in order to finish the projects. Another important aspect is the writing part, after all, the UvA is a research university. For Dutch research university programmes, you can expect a lot of writing and preparation for a possible future academic career.

Another important aspect to take into account is that, if you are one of those students who are used to getting a 10/10 (or an A in case of the American system), you can forget about it. For Dutch professors, perfection doesn’t exist, and a 10 is almost impossible to get. You can pass with a 5,5, which is ok, but the average grade for Dutch students is around 7. Grades are not that important unless you want to continue with an academic path such as a MA or PhD, meaning needing a minimum of 8/10, but it is not something that relevant for them.

What You Should Consider

Ok, maybe it is not that easy to get in the UvA, but getting into a university is never an easy matter. The UvA is one of the easiest universities to get into in the Netherlands, with the exception of programmes of Law and Medicine due to the high demand. For the rest, the requirements are almost the same ones for the whole country, at least when it comes to BAs.

For what matters, if you are planning on studying at the UvA, and unless you speak Dutch, your focus has to be on your proof of the English language: either IELTS ( mostly 6.0 on average), TOEFL (minimum 83 or higher) or Cambridge Certificate(C1 or C2). Plus any specific language requirement for your programme.

Photo courtesy of C messier || commons.Wikimedia

Why Studying at the UvA

  • Location: who wouldn’t want to live in the middle of Amsterdam? The advantage of studying at the UvA is that your faculty will be in the middle of the city and therefore all the cool sightseeing points, restaurants and buildings are just one step away from the university building.
  • Autonomy: yes, as bad as it may have sounded in the later paragraph, being autonomous when you are studying has a lot of advantages, one of them being the possibility of getting a job, studying whenever you want and having the chance to do as much with your time as you can manage. Definitely a plus if you know how to do it.
  • Amsterdam is well connected with the rest of the country and the rest of Europe. Living close to Amsterdam Centraal Station and Schiphol airport is priceless. In a matter of minutes, you can be either at the airport or the train station to move to your next destination.
  • Scholarships: the UvA, like many other universities in the Netherlands, offer scholarships and grants for those students who need it and can prove their academic abilities. This is definitely an advantage and something to take into consideration when it comes to moving to such an expensive city.
  • Cheap(er) English programmes: well, it is not really cheap, but if you are not eligible for a scholarship nor for the cheaper fee, the statutory fee, you will still be paying less for your studies than British or American students. The average price for an EU passport holder is 2000 euros per year, while it goes up to 8000 euros for non-EU students.
  • International experience: there are over 180 nationalities living in Amsterdam, and most of them will also be your own classmates. There are a lot of advantages to being in such an international environment such as learning about other cultures and the enrichment of the lessons, adding more interest to the content of the syllabus. It is definitely a plus.

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