Studying economics in the Netherlands - A student view

A Student View

Paul Balenski, a UK postgraduate student of economics, shares his experience of living in Rotterdam and studying at Erasmus University.

I am originally from Lancashire in the UK and completed my bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Bristol. Once I decided that I would like to study for a master’s degree, I focused on finding a course outside of the UK, as I wanted to do something a little different and was looking for more than just an academic education. Travelling has always appealed to me and I felt that studying abroad would provide a good opportunity to combine this interest with my studies. I also felt that this would help me to determine whether I would want to live abroad on a more permanent basis.

The Netherlands stood out as a good possibility as the country has a number of well-respected universities that offer a wide range of courses in English and it seemed possible to live perfectly well in the Netherlands without knowing the local language. In addition to this, master’s courses in the Netherlands are much cheaper than those in the UK, particularly for courses specialising in Economics and Finance. In the Netherlands, all students from EU countries pay under EUR 2,000 per year.

I eventually chose to study Financial Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The university has a solid reputation in this field of study and the course allowed me to focus my studies on my core interests. Further to this, the University is very internationally orientated and seemed to provide good support to those coming to study at the University from outside of the country. Rotterdam itself is also an interesting and lively place that is well located for exploring other cities. Amsterdam and The Hague are just a short distance away, while Brussels, Antwerp and Paris also are easily reachable by train.

Unlike the UK, the majority a students in the Netherlands study for a masters degree following their Bachelors education. In terms of course content, contact hours and further studies beyond masters level, there is little difference between the UK and the Netherlands from what I’ve seen, although I have never actively researched the latter point.

The main difference that I have found between the two countries is that much less emphasis is given to traditional closed book examinations in the Netherlands and more focus is given to the practical application of material and soft skills. While this varies from course to course, only one third of my final grade for the programme I am following is determined through examinations. Instead, approximately half of my grade is determined by performance during seminars, whereby group work, participation in class discussions and presentations form the bulk of the assessment.

With regards to living in the Netherlands, there are few problems not being able to speak Dutch, as the majority of Dutch people speak very good English, although there are definitely times where knowing the language would come in useful.

Overall, I have felt that studying in the Netherlands has been a great experience for me and I would have no problem in recommending it to anyone considering studying abroad.

From issue no. 158, July 2012, p.22.

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