The Netherlands vs Germany: Best Country To Study Abroad

The Netherlands and Germany are both popular countries among international students. The Netherlands offers more English-taught programs and native English-speaking teachers; on the other hand, Germany has more affordable tuition fees and a lower cost of living.

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. It’s known for tolerant and liberal people and great student cities; none of them is more than a bicycle ride away from some picturesque countryside.

Germany is the most popular European country to study abroad. It has a great economy and many global companies, hence good working prospects for international students.

In this article, we compare the two countries from the study abroad perspective, so you can choose which place suits you better.

Opportunities for English speakers

If you want to study in English, it’s essential to estimate the chances and opportunities available to English speakers.

The Netherlands

Surprisingly, the Netherlands was the first non-native English-speaking country to offer courses taught in English to international students. That’s a good sign!

The country has impressive 2,500 English programs, including undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, so if you don’t speak German, you might consider the Dutch university.

English is widely spoken, and many non-Dutch-speaking people work or study there. It’s also one of the favorite countries of immigrants, thanks to the open-mindedness and tolerance of people.

English degree also isn’t more expensive than a degree in Dutch, compared to Germany, where most of the time, students pay significant tuition fees only because of the language.

The Netherlands is very advanced with the English language; they learn it and actively practice from a young age; movies are also not translated into the Dutch language, which encourages locals to learn and master the English language.

Also, most Dutch professors and teachers speak good English, and many are from English-speaking countries such as the UK, USA, and Canada. German universities have significantly fewer native English speakers among the academic staff.

To apply to university, you will need a certificate of sufficient knowledge of English. It can be IELTS with a score of 6.0 or TOEFL with a score no lower than 550 Paper Based or 213 Computer-Based or 80%.

In the Netherlands, you can also expect a large community of international students: More than 112,000 students from around the world.

Around 16% of all students come from abroad – one of the highest ratios anywhere in Europe.

Germany

Germany has over 370,000 international students, three times more than the Netherlands. Does it mean that Germany is better for international students?

Compared to the Netherlands, most of the students in Germany choose a degree program in the German language. Most universities offer Bachelor’s degrees only in German, while some have English-speaking Master’s. Besides, companies operate mainly in the German language.

Usually, the future students learn German already in their home country and, after passing school and language exams, come to study in Germany. But it doesn’t mean there is no option to study in English; the choice is small but still exists.

If you want to study an undergraduate course at a public university in Germany, it will be hard to find a program taught in English. English-speaking degrees are available at high tuition fees.

On the DAAD website, you can check all available English courses and degree programs, depending on if it’s undergraduate or postgraduate.

Keep in mind that to apply for an English program in Germany, you need to pass TOEFL or IELTS test. A TOEFL should have a score of 80 points ( 550 paper-based or 213 computer-based and an IELTS of 6.0.

All other entry requirements are similar to programs taught in German.

Entry requirements for universities

The Netherlands

First, you have to contact the international office of the university you are interested in to check whether your degree or school-leaving exam (obtained in your homeland) is recognized in the Netherlands. Besides that, for the application, you will need the following:

  1. Sufficient level of English: TOEFL (minimum 550 paper-based, 213 computer-based), IELTS minimum 6.0
  2. A school leaving/entry university diploma translated into English
  3. Transcript of records
  4. Some master programs can require a minimum TOEFL of 100 or IELTS of 7.0
  5. In some cases:
    • CV or resume (including two referees)
    • Motivation letter
    • Sample of academic written work

After application university might invite you to pass an additional exam, which can be GRE or GMAT; if you have no idea what it is, read here.

Most of the time, you will need such an exam for application to a business school and/or an MBA program (GMAT), and GRE is used as part of admissions for a wide variety of graduate school programs.

The GMAT and GRE tests are computer-adaptive tests assessing a person’s quantitative, analytical, and writing skills in standard written English in preparation for admission into a graduate program.

Please note: plan to take your exam well before the application deadline. It can take some time before you receive the official results. GMAT and GRE test scores are valid for two years.

Some institutions may reject your application or ask you to take other admission tests if they believe you are not fully qualified.

Application deadlines

Each university has its dates, but in general:

  1. The application deadline for most courses is 1 May
  2. In some universities, the application deadline is 1 February or 1 March (if possible to start in the winter and summer semesters)

Germany

First and most important, to study in Germany, you must have a recognized Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (HZB), meaning higher education entrance qualification.

Therefore, your previous education in the country of origin determines if you can enter German universities directly or if you need to pass additional exams&undergo preparational courses.

Students from EU/EEA countries don’t have problems being accepted by the university since education is very similar in all of Europe.

However, many international applicants must complete a year/half a year course at Studienkolleg (preparatory school) to reach the same university entrance level Germans have.

The main entrance requirements to German Universities are:

  1. High-school diploma or school-leaving certificate, or university entrance exam translated into German by a legal translator and verified by a notary
  2. Proof of German (DSH, Goethe Institut Certification, TestDaF B2) or if a program in English IELTS minimum 6.0/TOEFL 80 (minimum 550 paper-based, 213 computer-based)
  3. Overview of your course modules and grades translated into German
  4. Passport photo

Some nationalities will need to get their diplomas and qualifications approved by the issued organization to contain an apostille stamp confirming their validity.

I had to go to Russia to do this. Keep in mind that the process can take several months, make sure your documents are ready before the application.

For most subjects, you can apply directly via university email; alternatively, you can use the website www.uni-assist.de, a centralized admissions portal for international students.

I suggest applying for various university courses to increase your admission chances.

Application deadlines

At many German universities, it’s possible to apply for admission twice a year – in the winter or summer semester:

  • 15 July for the winter semester and 15 January for the summer

Be aware that application deadlines vary between institutions, and the same institution may set different deadlines for each program.

It’s recommended to submit applications at least six weeks before the deadline. You should expect to receive a formal acceptance or rejection approximately one to two months after the deadline has passed.

Therefore, there will be little time to apply for a visa; you must take action as quickly as possible.

Quality of education

According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2018, the Netherlands has 12, and Germany has no less than 38 universities in the top 500 universities in the world.

The Netherlands

Dutch universities are usually relatively young and modern institutions, offering higher standard facilities regarding technology and material.

The lectures and seminars are in English, making them much more appealing to foreigners; in fact, most Dutch universities are highly popular with foreigners.

Many English-taught programs and native English-speaking teachers surely give the Netherlands an upper advantage in Europe.

The studies are often very practical oriented with a lot of group work and many presentations.

In general, the system is more adaptable and flexible; also, in terms of degrees, for instance, few Master’s degrees don’t require a Bachelor’s but a certain amount of related work experience, which is a new approach to education and nearly unheard of in Germany.

The QS World University Rankings 2019 includes 13 universities in the Netherlands, all ranked within the world’s top 350, and an impressive seven are within the global top 150.

The nation’s highest-ranking institution is the Delft University of Technology at 52 in the world, with the University of Amsterdam and Eindhoven University of Technology not too far behind, at 57 and 99, respectively. The Netherlands couldn’t be less proud of its quality of education.

Similar to Germany, the Dutch high education system is divided into Research Universities and Universities of Applied Science.

Compared to Germany – Dutch Bachelor’s programs often take up to 4 years to complete, which is one year longer than in the neighboring country.

Germany

The German education system and degrees have an excellent reputation worldwide, so many foreigners study at German universities.

Germany has more universities than other European counties (currently 429) and a big focus on research. Some of them have been consistently ranked among the world’s best universities.

German specialists and scientists are known worldwide for their high level of knowledge, experience, and expertise.

Students value German universities for the quality of education, hands-on experiences during their studies, opportunities to improve academically, and, most importantly, the safe and friendly environment.

Most universities and colleges in Germany are public; they receive funding from the state governments. In addition to public institutions, more than 121 private universities and colleges now provide officially recognized degrees.

A majority of all universities are Universities of Applied Sciences. They offer a more practically oriented education adapted to the demands of professional life.

Their degree programs generally include internships and a practical module. Read here about the differences between the University and the University of Applied Sciences.

Student life

Student life is another crucial factor to consider when choosing a place to study abroad.

The Netherlands

Being a student in the Netherlands is fun since there are a lot of facilities, cultural happenings, museums, historical places, and of course, many other international students. Most cities are student cities with many offerings for a younger population.

Dutch people are also very friendly and more relaxed there as well as open to other newcomers. Especially their English skills make Dutch students approachable and perfect party buddies, but if you’re looking to form solid friendships with them, you should learn some Dutch.

Germany

Because Germany is such a large country and a favorite student destination, you are going to meet a lot of other international students, but you can also mix with local ones. 

You will have a lot to do in your free time as a student there. Germany is a perfect country to go for a beer, do some sports or outdoors, and relax at the many parks or by the rivers. If you like to travel, Germany will spoil you with many destinations and places to visit.

Germans like their routines and schedules a lot. Professors are no exception. Being an organized student will get you their respect, so you’d better get used to sticking to deadlines.

Tuition fees and living costs

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, higher education isn’t free as in Germany, and students will need to pay the following fees for a bachelor’s program:

  • Average tuition fees for EU/EEA students: between 700 – 2,100 EUR/ year
  • Average tuition fees for non-EU students: between 6,000 – 15,000 EUR/year

And for a master’s program:

  • Average tuition fees for EU/EEA students: between 1,070 – 2,083 EUR/year
  • Average tuition fees for non-EU students: between 8,000 – 20,000 EUR/year

Of course, if you choose a private university, your tuition fees will be higher.

Living costs

The expected cost of living is approximately 900 EUR – 1,100 EUR a month for typical student life. Notice that rent is higher than in most German student cities and will be your most considerable expense. Second is food which is also more expensive than in the eastern neighborhood.

Your main living costs will be:

  • Rent – 350-800 EUR per month
  • Groceries/Eating Out – 250 EUR per month
  • Study Materials – 50 EUR per month
  • Insurance (if you are not an EHIC holder) – 80 EUR per month
  • Clothes/Entertainment – 100 EUR per month

Students from EU/EEA countries and students who are working or doing internships in the Netherlands are eligible for EHIC insurance which is cheaper than any other insurance for international students.

Germany

Germany is officially the cheapest country to study in Europe. Theoretically, tuition fees do not exist for local and international students, but practically everyone must pay between 100 and 350 EUR per semester for administrative costs.

Cost of living

Not only can you study for free in Germany, but it is also a pretty affordable country. Compared to the Netherlands, the living costs in Germany are cheaper.

Furthermore, it is easier to find reasonably priced and quality accommodation in Germany. Also, food is more affordable, although eating and drinking out costs relatively the same.

Students’ average living costs, including accommodation, range between 800 – 1,000 EUR/month. Depending on your location, prices vary; for example, the east of Germany is very affordable, with many excellent universities and cheap rent.

You won’t see this regional difference in the Netherlands; the prices remain the same throughout the country.

Here are some examples of living costs depending on the region:

  • Larger western cities: Munich, Frankfurt, or Stuttgart – total living costs of 1,000 – 1,500 EUR/month
  • Larger eastern cities: Dresden, Leipzig, Hannover – you will need 750 – 1,000 EUR/month

Main costs

As a student, you will spend about 170-250 EUR/month on food, depending on the region you are studying in. If you’re looking for lower prices, try discount supermarkets like Aldi, Lidl, and Netto.

For dinner in a restaurant, you will pay 10 EUR for food in a cheap place and 15 EUR in a regular one. A three-course meal for two in an average restaurant costs 45 EUR, and an additional light drink will be 4 EUR.

Housing for students

The Netherlands

The housing may be somewhat problematic in both countries. But it is also very different; in the Netherlands, students tend to share apartments or houses with common facilities (kitchen, toilet, bathroom) and private rooms.

This is a great solution for your small budget, but also comfort, so students have more space. Some universities also provide campus houses where you can get your own room.

Therefore, shared houses are more common due to Dutch architecture, which contains tiny private houses where the family has an entire home.

Students often rent a house outside the city center or even in the suburbs to save money and bike to the university daily.

Germany

Unfortunately, most German universities also don’t offer accommodation for enrolling students. In Germany, students often rent an entire apartment and separate it into private rooms with shared areas like a kitchen and bathroom. Houses are less rentable by students and more suitable for families.

Sometimes, you can receive campus accommodations from your university in a student city. It’s usually a small apartment with a private bathroom and kitchen in a big campus building, also called a residence hall (Wohnheim).

Cheaper options for international students are residence halls or sharing a privately rented apartment. You can also rent a one-room apartment (also called a studio).

Below you will find the average accommodation costs for a student in Germany:

  • Living alone in a studio: 490 EUR – 600 EUR/month
  • Sharing a privately rented room: 250 EUR – 500/month
  • Living in a student residence: 250 – 300 EUR/month

According to the statistics of DAAD – a big academic exchange organization, over 40% of international students live in student residences. The second most popular option is sharing a flat, with 30% of students choosing this accommodation type. 

Culture and lifestyle

As you will spend at least three years doing your Bachelor’s studies in Germany or Netherlands, you should know what to expect when interacting with the locals and be prepared for this.

The bad news is that both countries have not-so-friendly climates – they are generally colder and more reserved than other cultures. The good news is several cities in both countries rank as the most liveable places in the world.

The Netherlands

Generally, the Dutch tend to be more open and tolerant, while German seems more challenging to approach. Dutch are straightforward people, even more than Germans. They are honest and straightforward with anyone; for foreigners, it will be something to adjust to.

Many Dutch live under the slogan “equality for all” yet focus on individuality more than community. They are considered a middle-class society.

Because most people speak English, especially young ones, they also come across as less formal, more open-minded, and friendly. It’s easy to pick a conversation with a stranger or get the right directions from the first person you meet.

Similar to Germans, Dutch people like to schedule things. Don’t be surprised if dinner with a Dutch friend is scheduled six weeks in advance.

Germany

Germany has a stronger culture and traditions than the Netherlands; people are also very proud of this and like celebrating it. The Germans deliver what they promise, so overall, you can trust this person and rely on them; of course, they are also very punctual, and it’s not only stereotypes.

They are slightly more reserved and more formal than Dutchies. Also, for Germans, English is not a comforting language, and they can hesitate to speak it.

Germany is very dependent on the German language and hasn’t yet internationalized that much compared to the Netherlands. Even movies are dubbed into German.

But overall German people are pretty friendly too. Maybe a very German characteristic is participating in different clubs (Verein).

Many Germans are part of social clubs that focus on different activities: sports clubs, singing clubs, hiking clubs, as well as other nonprofit organizations.

Vereins (clubs) are a big part of the German culture and country itself; they bring massive value to people’s lives.

And, of course, don’t forget the beer, and the process of drinking beer has substantial cultural importance.

Application process for a student visa

Because Germany and the Netherlands are part of the European Union, EU students won’t need a visa to study in any of the countries. Non-EU students must apply for a student visa and a residence permit after arrival.

The Netherlands

For all Non-EU students planning to stay in the Netherlands for more than 90 days, the visa process has two parts: to apply for a Provisional Residence Permit (MVV) and Residence Permit.

First is an entry visa you must receive in your home country before arrival. Your MVV application will take some time to process, and it’s recommended that students apply at least three months before the arrival date.

Notice that you can’t leave your country during the application and wait for the decision prozess.

Luckily, Dutch universities take this responsibility for a visa and do almost all the work for you. Isn’t it a dream for an international student? However, you will need to pay a visa fee for this, which is 319 EUR. The money is 100% worth the work!

After arrival, you will need to apply for a residence permit to stay longer than six months. And even this process university will do on your behalf!

Probably by now it’s clear why so many international students choose the Netherlands; the biggest hurdle of studying abroad has been taken over by Universities. Therefore, the student can avoid all this stress.

Germany

Non-EU/EEA citizens will need a student visa to study in Germany. Future students should apply as soon as they receive an acceptance letter from the university.

To do this, they need independently contact the local German embassy or consulate in their home country. 

Like students in the Netherlands, they must apply for a residence permit after arrival. Usually, it’s an easy procedure and doesn’t require many additional documents.

Don’t be scared, but here is a complete list of the documents you need to have to apply for a German student visa in your country:

  1. Two filled-out and signed national visa forms
  2. Valid national passport
  3. Two photocopies of the passport
  4. Birth certificate
  5. Marriage certificate (if married).
  6. Child’s certificate (if children)
  7. Two recently taken biometric portrait photographs
  8. Photocopies of previous German residence titles. (If you have been to Germany before)
  9. Previous Schengen Visa
  10. Proof of Financial Resources. You should meet the financial requirements to be granted your German student visa. Depending on your circumstances, you should have one of the following:
    • Blocked Bank Account with 10,236 EUR.
    • Letter of commitment. You can get this from a person living in Germany who shows they will be covering your accommodation or other living costs.
    • Letter of declaration. Through this, your parents show they will provide you with financial support during your stay.
    • Scholarship certificate. If you have a scholarship award, the certificate should show what the scholarship will cover and that you are receiving that financial coverage.
  11. Proof of Admission. It can be one of the following:
    • University admission letter.
    • Letter of admission in foundation/propaedeutic/German language course.
  12. Original certificates of previous education
  13. Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  14. Motivational Letter. Explain why you have chosen this degree program and your future plans.
  15. Travel Health Insurance. (covering the period from your departure to the date of enrolment at the university – approx. 3 months). 
  16. Proof of German language proficiency – if studying in German
  17. Proof of English language proficiency – if studying in English

Of course, all documents that don’t originate in English must be translated into German.

Working as a student

The Netherlands

Depending on your nationality, in the Netherlands, working while studying for a limited number of hours is allowed. In fact, many Dutch and international students take part-time jobs while studying to support themselves.

To work in the cafés, pubs, and bars will not require you to speak Dutch; English is perfectly fine. For more academic jobs speaking Dutch can be necessary, but usually, there is a big market for international workers.

From the legal side, international students are permitted to work for a maximum of 16 hours per week and full-time during vacations. 

Your employer will have to apply for a work permit on your behalf, which is quite a simple process. However, receiving a work permit and finding a job after graduation is more challenging.

Students can expect to earn between 10 EUR and 12 EUR per hour.

Germany

Germany also allows international students to work but only a restricted number of days per year. It’s 120 full days each year or 240 half days. Some exceptions can be applied for a student assistant or research assistant at your university: it’s usually no problem to exceed the 120-day limit.

Students from the EU/EEA countries can work up to 20 hours per week without needing a work permit. Note that non-EU students aren’t permitted to work as self-employed or freelancers.

You can expect an hour’s salary between 9 EUR and 12 EUR, but with some experience and expertise, it can be up to 15 EUR.

Opportunities after graduation

Getting a job after graduation can be a goal for many students if they don’t plan to return home afterward. So which country is better in this context?

The Netherlands

The world’s largest companies are Dutch (Shell, KPMG, Philips, Heineken, etc.), and many global groups have their European headquarters in the Netherlands.

With the country’s international mindset, finding a workplace operating in English and welcoming toward foreign employees is not a difficult task. There are pristine conditions for international students.

If you have completed or are about to finish your graduation from a Dutch University, you are eligible for azoekjaar or search year. It will give you 12 months to look for a job in the Netherlands.

After finding a suitable job, you can apply for a working visa and residence permit, which does require a minimum salary of 2,364 EUR gross per month, excluding holiday allowance.

Statistics say 84% of the international students studying in the Netherlands get employed before completing their programs, while 92% get a job within six months after graduation.

International students seeking employment in the Netherlands are called highly skilled/educated migrants and are very welcomed by employers.

Top jobs after graduation

FieldAverage Annual Salary (in USD)
Medical and Health Care96,948
Engineering94,980
Business and Management93,721
IT and Telecommunication78,138
Public Sector71,133
Law65,934
Education60,695
Hospitality and Tourism29,377

If you graduate with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from a Dutch university, you will stand a good chance of finding a job and staying longer.

Germany

Germany also gives a chance to graduates to work after completing their degree. Often they will need to speak German, but in big cities and big international companies, English speaking job is also possible.

Especially graduates of IT and engineering have excellent chances to work without speaking German.

International students from non-EU/EEA countries with a residence permit can extend it to stay in Germany and seek work for up to 18 months after graduating, as long as the job is related to their field of study.

University graduates will need to apply for work and residence permits after finding a job, fulfilling requirements on the minimum salary for EU Blue Card: 56,400 EUR per year or 43,908 EUR if STEM profession.

Different rules might apply to regular employment residence permits. In that case, an employer will sponsor your visa.

After two years of employment in Germany, it’s possible to apply for permanent residency status. It’s beneficial to be fluent in German when seeking work in Germany, but it’s not always essential.

Germany is generally more difficult and less promising for international students to stay and work after graduation. This is because of a smaller choice of English-speaking jobs and much higher salary requirements.

Best universities for international students

The Netherlands

The best Dutch Universities from an international perspective, many of them also ranking in the first 150 worldwide:

  • Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) 
  • University of Amsterdam 
  • Eindhoven University of Technology 
  • Leiden University 
  • Utrecht University 
  • University of Groningen 

Germany

Germany has more universities in total and, therefore, more on our list:

  • Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
  • Free University of Berlin
  • Berlin Institute of Technology
  • Technical University of Munich
  • Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg
  • KIT, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • RWTH Aachen University
  • University of Freiburg

Anna

Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

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