Netherlands - Country Commercial Guide
Education and Training

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-03-28

Capital:  Amsterdam

Population: 17.3 million (July 2021 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):  $945.5 billion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)

Currency:  Euro

Language:  Dutch


UNESCO Student Mobility Number

The Netherlands has 20,011 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.


CIA World Factbook

28.02% of the population in the Netherlands is under 25 years old.



With a population of less than 18 million, the Netherlands is nevertheless an interesting market for U.S. institutions with an international program.  The country is extremely international in its culture and is outward-looking in almost all respects.  Dutch people are overwhelmingly pro-American and very much attracted to the U.S. as a vacation destination and as a destination for broadening their education horizons.  The U.S. is by far the largest recipient of Dutch students outside of the EU, where Erasmus and other programs make it exceedingly easy on all levels for Dutch students to study.

According to the EF English Proficiency Index 2021, the Netherlands ranks number 1 out of 112 countries and Dutch students consequently are likely to see the U.S. as a prime study destination.

The number of Dutch students studying in higher education institutions in the U.S. dropped drastically in the 2020-2021 academic year, totaling just 1,767 students. 

The World Economic Forum has ranked the Netherlands as the third most educated country in the world.  A third of Dutch 25–64-year-olds hold a university degree, which is significantly higher than the OECD average of 24 percent.  The primary international destinations for Dutch students are Belgium, the UK, the U.S., and Germany.



Higher Education:  According to the 2021 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, there were 1,767 students from the Netherlands studying in the higher education sector in the U.S. during the 2020-2021 academic year, a decrease of 35 percent compared with the previous year when the number was 2,727.  This is a drastic drop compared to the steady growth in numbers beginning in 2012 when the number was 2,000 and can be attributed exclusively to the pandemic.

The most popular areas of study for Dutch students in higher education are business and management, engineering, social sciences, physical and life sciences, and mathematics and computer sciences.  Most Dutch students applying to U.S. higher education institutions are attracted by the flexible and broad curricula available in the U.S., along with opportunities to combine an academic major with sports, music, or the arts, often supported by a scholarship.  We estimate that Dutch students are spread equally between undergraduate, community college, and graduate education.

Secondary Education:  Demand for secondary education is high – the enrollment rate is 92 percent, and 2019 enrollment was 270,000, spread equally between male and female students.  A total of 1.2 million students are currently in secondary education.

Online Programs/Education Technology:  Online education in the Netherlands has become more and more common due to digitization.  The measures against the coronavirus have greatly accelerated the process.

SURF is a cooperative association of Dutch education and research institutions in which the members combine their strengths to innovate education with IT and benefit from the knowledge, experiences, and services that SURF is building together with education institutions.  Please see the following website for English-language background information on education and IT in the Netherlands -

Research and Development:  The Netherlands spends an average of 2 percent of GDP on research and development, annually.  This percentage is growing slowly and was 2.2 percent in 2018, the latest available statistic.  Businesses are responsible for 48 percent of the expenditure, followed by higher education with 40 percent, and government covering 12 percent.  The three largest sectors benefitting from R&D are engineering and technology (40%), natural sciences (20%), and medical science (17%).



Many Dutch education institutions, and all the high-profile ones, have longstanding and quite deep-rooted partnership programs with multiple U.S. institutions.  Most are at the bachelor’s degree level, and most have an exchange component.  Best prospects in terms of fields of study are very similar to those listed by other EU markets, including Engineering, Business Management, and Computer Sciences.  Culture and language play no role in deterring Dutch students from considering the U.S.

Most Dutch students applying to U.S. higher education institutions find the flexible and broad curriculum appealing, while also being drawn to U.S. campuses for the possibility of combining an academic major with sports, music, or the arts, often supported by a scholarship.

Tuition fees in the Netherlands are significantly lower, creating a potential obstacle for credit mobility between the U.S. and the Netherlands.  Consequently, Dutch students are highly dependent on finding scholarships or other forms of financial assistance to be able to attend U.S. schools.  Annually, two percent of Dutch degree-seeking students study abroad for a full-degree program. 

The Dutch government’s policy to increase the international component of the education system stimulates the process of encouraging Dutch students to study abroad, and a government funding program helps to cover some of the costs.  Tertiary education in the Netherlands costs very little, in stark contrast to the U.S., and this issue is the largest obstacle to growing the number of Dutch students studying in the U.S.  Consequently, shorter programs are the most popular.  Strategies that should be followed to attract Dutch students to the U.S. are like strategies in other EU markets, but the role of Dutch education agents is limited, due to the number of Dutch education institutions with their own programs.

In the Netherlands, the Fulbright Center in Amsterdam is an important player in promoting educational cooperation by administering educational exchange programs between the Netherlands and the U.S.  In addition, the Center provides information on study, research, and internships in the United States.



The most popular social media sites for students are WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  Dutch students are part of at least seven WhatsApp groups, on average.  Google and other search engines are frequently used by students to get information on any given topic.

Popular platforms to search for job opportunities are LinkedIn and Indeed.

Netflix, Videoland, HBO, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and Hulu are the most popular platforms to      stream videos in the Netherlands. 

Information events at universities or schools, websites, emails, and social media platforms are    used by in-country schools and competitor countries to reach Dutch students.  The Internet and email are the primary sources of information for parents and students regarding educational opportunities.  The use of social media platforms like LinkedIn in digital outreach strategies is recommended for U.S. study state consortia and education institutions.








Natasha Keylard, Senior Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – The Hague, Netherlands

Phone: +31-70-3102 279