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Dutch vs. Belgian Universities: A Side-by-Side Comparison

February 7, 2023

Belgium and The Netherlands have long been favored destinations for students pursuing higher education. With a combined enrollment of approximately 632,000 students for the 2022/2023 academic year, both countries offer an array of study options. However, despite their geographic proximity, significant distinctions exist between universities in these neighboring nations.

Language of Instruction

The most apparent contrast lies in the language of instruction. In The Netherlands, Dutch is predominantly used for instruction, although many universities offer courses in English, attracting a substantial international student body, often ranging from 10% to 50%. In Belgium, the linguistic landscape is more diverse, with institutions employing French, Dutch, and English depending on the region. Knowing the predominant language at a university is essential, as navigating multiple language barriers can be challenging.

Teaching and Learning Approaches

Another noteworthy difference lies in the approach to teaching and learning. Dutch universities often adopt a more informal and participatory style, particularly the polytechnics, encouraging students to actively engage in their education. Conversely, Belgian universities tend to favor a traditional lecture-based approach, placing a greater emphasis on rote learning and memorization. While variations exist among institutions, researching the teaching style beforehand, such as seeking insights from current students, can prove invaluable.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees also differ between these neighboring nations. In The Netherlands, domestic students typically pay around €2,000 in tuition fees, while non-European students may face fees of up to €20,000. In Belgium, public universities offer tuition starting from approximately €500, making them roughly 50% cheaper than most Dutch universities. However, these figures can vary by institution. It's crucial to remember that the cost of education encompasses more than just tuition, with factors like living expenses, city rent, transportation, and lifestyle choices significantly impacting the overall financial burden.

Choosing Your Educational Path

Deciding between these two countries can be a challenging task, but both offer exceptional higher education opportunities. As emphasized in our previous blogs, selecting a university and program that align with your personal preferences, including your chosen field of study, learning style, exchange possibilities, and program duration, should take precedence over the choice of a country. Moreover, it's worth noting that, regardless of where you study in Belgium or The Netherlands, you'll always be just a few hours away from exploring the other country's rich educational and cultural offerings.

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