The Dutch system of higher education enjoys worldwide reputation for high quality that is achieved through a national system of regulation and quality assurance.

The Netherlands is in Northwestern Europe. Almost half of the country that is home to over 60 per cent of its population lies below sea level. More than 2,400 kilometers of dykes shield the country from invasion by the North Sea. The Netherlands is a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy, with Amsterdam as the capital. The main language is Dutch. There are nearly 1,500 study programmes taught in English. The Netherlands is often incorrectly called Holland. The North Holland and South Holland are only two of its twelve provinces. If you live and study outside these two provinces, better say ‘the Netherlands'; you may win more friends that way!

The Dutch give great importance to education. The Dutch system of higher education enjoys worldwide reputation for high quality that is achieved through a national system of regulation and quality assurance. Institutions like the Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, and Erasmus University Rotterdam are rated high at the global level.

The Dutch are a highly educated people. One out of three school-leavers complete a first university degree. There are thirteen 'regular' universities in the Netherlands. They include three technical universities and an agricultural university. Besides these, there are 43 colleges offering 200 different programmes for a variety of professions in a range of social areas. There are nearly 76,000 international students in Netherlands. At present more than 500 Indian students stand registered at publicly funded Dutch higher education programmes.

Institutions for higher professional education (HBO institutions) receive funding from a variety of sources - government grants, tuition fees, and revenue from external work. While selecting your institution and program of study, do not focus on just one institution/ programme. You may try simultaneously in two or three programmes. Second choices will be of help in securing admission in the year of your dream.

If you go to the site www.nuffic.nl, and go by the links international-students and study programs, you reach a long list of disciplines. You can choose your favourite discipline and then proceed to the options of institutions and programs, including all the related details required.

The admission requirement would be different in different universities. You may first contact the institution that offers your desired programme of study, and confirm its specific entry requirements. The main requisite for admission to a bachelor's programme is a secondary-school 'diploma'. You should get your qualification judged equivalent to the minimum diploma required. The Nuffic (Netherlands organisation for international co-operation in higher education) acts as the Dutch National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) for the evaluation of foreign diplomas in higher and general secondary level education. This is a free service.

Credentials are evaluated and advice over telephone given on request. The evaluation by Nuffic serves only as an advice to institutions. The institutions themselves take the final decision on admission. The Nuffic can also determine whether a programme or educational institution is officially recognised. It can assess the authenticity of diplomas.

There are also study programmes for which institutions set their special requirements. For admission to a master's degree programme, applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent. In certain popular fields, the number of seats is limited and quotas are set. The tuition fee is low compared to that in most other countries. There are numerous grants and scholarships available for international students. Details of these, classified on the basis of the student's country of origin, is listed in the web site www.grantfinder.nl. For admission to universities for studies in the English medium, you will have to show acceptable scores in TOEFL or IELTS to prove your proficiency in the language. It may be 213 (computer based) in TOEFL or 6 in IELTS. Certain programmes may need higher scores. You can safely manage life in the Netherlands with the knowledge of English; the Dutch language is not essential. However, it is desirable that you learn the local language in any country you live for a long time. When preparing for your stay in the Netherlands, information on daily expenses, housing and tuition fees will be helpful for planning your personal budget. The daily expenses include food, public transport, books, clothes, and sundries. But you also need to take into account the costs for housing and insurance. Students living and studying in the Netherlands would spend between €700 and €1,000 a month. Your monthly room rent would be from €250 to €600, which may be about one-third of your scholarship or other student income. The rent may or may not cover gas, electricity, TV, and the Internet. Amsterdam is costlier than small places. Expenses for food would take another one-third. Eetcafés give cheap food; but cooking on your own is the cheapest. A cup of coffee in a café may cost two euros. Certain restaurants and cinema theatres would give student discounts. You should keep your ISIC (International Student Identity Card) with you to get such concession.

You should report to the Aliens Police within three days of your arrival in the Netherlands. You are allowed to take paid work for a limited number of hours per week alongside your studies. The employer has to apply for a work permit for you. Your traineeship may also be seen as work. You will have to execute a traineeship agreement as indicated in the Nuffic website. If you have already graduated, you will not be able to work as a trainee. You may however gain practical work experience in the Netherlands for a period up to six months, under the residency scheme. You have to plan for your visa and/or a residence permit, and arrange your accommodation in the Netherlands. Further, you must make sure you have adequate health insurance for your overseas stay. For further details, you may visit the web sites www.minocw.nl/english and http://www.nuffic.nl. Contact: e-mail: ocwinfo@postbus51.nl; phone 0031 70 4123456.

By post: 1. Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap, PO Box 16375, 2500 BJ Den Haag, The Netherlands.

2. Netherlands Embassy in India, 6/50 F, Shantipath, New Delhi -110021(Ph: 011-2688-4951; email:nde@minbuza.nl;

web site: www.the Netherlands-in-india.org)

There is no harm in contacting the institution of your choice for studies directly through e-mail. This may be necessary since the procedure may not be the same in all the institutions. The e-mail id is usually available in the Internet. For information on studies in the Netherlands, you may contact any of the Nuffic Nesos (Nuffic Netherlands Education Support Offices). There are offices at Ahmedabad and Chennai. Nuffic Neso Desk (Chennai), Netherlands Business Support Office – Chennai, #203, Sigma Wing, Raheja Towers, 177, Anna Salai, Chennai - 600 002; Ph: 044 28601640; e-mail: sudha.sudeep@airtelmail.in; Website: www.nesoindia.org