The University College formula: studying in English in the Netherlands

By: Sofia Lotto Persio 04-04-2012

Categories:Education news,

In the past 10 years, the Netherlands has seen a steep increase in the creation of University Colleges where to study Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The concept of Liberal Arts and Sciences is an old one, dating back to the fifth Century. Back then, there were considered to be seven subjects: grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, arithmetic, astronomy, and geometry. Nowadays, bachelor courses of Liberal Arts and Sciences cover a wider area of subjects than the original seven, including law, economics, foreign languages, biology, history, and others, usually divided in the traditional tracks od Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences.

One of the characteristics of the bachelor study is to be able to focus on one discipline in itself and in its interdisciplinary aspects: students choose a major, but they usually have to take a certain “core” course, electives and a minor to complement and broaden their preparation.
In the Netherlands, there are about seven different cities hosting University Colleges that offer the Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Amsterdam, Maastricht, Middleburg (affiliated to University of Utrecht), The Hague (affiliated to University of Leiden), Tilburg, and Utrecht. Each of these programmes has a particular theme, topic, or focus that makes studying Liberal Arts and Sciences here a different experience than anywhere else.

What they all have in common is that the programme is taught completely in English, it lasts three years and the maximum number of students per class is usually around 20, to make sure that each student has space to participate in the class and that the professors know their students. Apart from Maastricht and Tilburg, the other University Colleges require their students to live on campus for at least two years, to create a feeling of community and facilitate working together. International students particularly benefit from the accommodation system, because they do not have to look for a place themselves!

Studying in an international environment is, in fact, another characteristic of University Colleges, which attract both staff and students from all over the world. Most professors teaching here have an international background, and the students population is made up mostly either of Dutch nationals who have lived abroad, or internationally minded Dutch residents, or, of course, international students. With tuition fees rising in the UK, University Colleges are particularly seeking to attract those students who would otherwise consider studying in their country.

What makes the Bachelor in Liberal Arts and Sciences stand out from other Bachelors is that students do not simply learn traditional notions of a certain discipline, but they also learn competencies that they will apply in any job in their future career. University College students develop good skills in communication and presentation, research, working in groups, critical thinking and working under pressure. These qualities make them ready for entering the present-day flexible and demanding job market. At least, I truly hope so, being a University College student myself!

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