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City firms not finding what they need in independent school students.

Earlier this week, Mary Curnock Cook, head of Ucas, spoke at the HMC annual conference in St Andrews and suggested that independent schools are preparing students with narrow, almost identical outlooks on life. The necessary conclusion of this being that the life experience of such students does not provide the diversity that successful organisations need in the 21st Century.

Quoted in The Daily Telegraph she said, “It seems to me that not only are (independent school) students going to the same universities that their parents went to, but they are also studying the same subjects that their parents did.

“So I worry about a little sub-section of society which is sleepwalking though an identikit education experience into an off-the-peg life which mirrors what generations of the affluent classes have aspired to.

“The future is not what is used to be – the new sciences, digital economy, digital and creative industries have changed the shape of employment.

“Maybe just maybe some of them should give serious thought to choosing to study something different, somewhere else.”

Where that somewhere else might be is left unstated. I doubt there is much of a case to be made for encouraging able British students, and their aspirational parents,  to go to “lesser” universities in the United Kingdom although it certainly would not harm them to look at a wider range of courses.  The identikit education experience to which she refers can probably be better avoided at universities abroad.

There is plentiful evidence that studying abroad can shape the outlook of any young person and almost always for the better. However, even if independent schools, parents and students are looking for a narrow, evidence-based rationale for choosing a university abroad the recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings can provide this. Although these rankings are largely inappropriate when assessing the quality of these universities’ undergraduate teaching and student support, undeniably they give an indication of overall quality and reputation.

Below we present a snapshot of those universities in the Top 50 in non-English speaking Europe that offer Bachelors degrees in English. Over the last two years, all but two of these universities have seen their overall ranking improve. Perhaps it isn’t all that surprising that more British students are going to study abroad particularly in the Netherlands.  It would seem that City firms might be able find the talent they need in the near future but they will also have to cast their net a little wider when looking for the best talent.

Rank University Country Global Rank Bachelors in English
2 Karolinska Institute Sweden 28 1
5 KU Leuven Belgium 35 4
11 University of Amsterdam Netherlands 58 5
12 University of Utrecht Netherlands 62 3
13 Delft University of Technology Netherlands 65 2
14 Leiden University Netherlands 67 6
15 Erasmus University Netherlands 71 10
17 University of Groningen Netherlands 74 25
22 University of Freiberg Germany 84 1
23 Maastricht University Netherlands 88 10
24 Lund University Sweden 90 5
26 Georg August Universitaet Goettingen Germany 99 1
38 Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands 130 6
41 Stockholm University Sweden 136 2
46 Aarhus University Denmark 149 4
47 University of Twente Netherlands 149 12
48 VU University Amsterdam Netherlands 154 3
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Do you advise British students on applying to Dutch universities?

If you often find yourself being asked about Dutch universities by your students I would like to suggest you attend our International Higher Education for UK Students conferences that will be held in London on Tuesday 9th June and in Birmingham on Wednesday 10th June. Here is some general advice on how to apply to Dutch universities that may serve as a useful introduction.

1. Choosing the right course

Even though the Netherlands has a wide range of Bachelor’s degrees in English (there are currently 218 listed on our Study in Holland website), it is not possible to find everything. Students may need to widen their search terms to find a degree that is suitable. For example, history is not offered as a single subject Bachelor’s degree in English but European history forms a large part, and can become the main focus, of the BA Liberal Arts and Sciences offered at Tilburg University.

Every year there are more options in English and we are already aware of several courses that will launch in 2016 and 2017 so it is always worth checking our site for updates.

2. Choosing the right university

The most important distinction when considering Dutch universities relates to the aptitudes and aspirations of your students; is a research university more suitable than a University of Applied Sciences? This distinction is starting to become a little more blurred but it is still largely true that students will either follow a vocational/professional or academic path in their higher education.

While Dutch research universities such as Tilburg or the University of Groningen are generally reckoned to be amongst the best in the world, we believe it is the Universities of Applied Sciences that are comparatively better than their equivalents in the UK, primarily because of the learning opportunities they offer outside the classroom and library. The business school at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, for example, offers excellent work experience opportunities in many of the world’s leading companies. Windesheim Honours College can offer globally minded students the chance to get involved in humanitarian projects in many countries.

3. Meeting Dutch entry requirements 

In common with many European education systems, students are eligible to apply with extremely modest A’ level or IB scores. However, an increasing number of courses have their own selection criteria. Even so, we would advise you to set your own unofficial entry requirements; allowing unsuitable students to apply is almost certainly going to lead to an unpleasant experience further down the line.

For research universities we would suggest BBB or 34 on the IB should be the minimum expected grades.

For Universities of Applied Sciences students require 2 A’ levels and four GCSEs in six different subjects. BTECs in related subjects will also be considered. For students with three A’ levels they may be able to enter a fast track programme that can be completed in three years (including up to a year’s work experience). Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences offers one such example. Stenden University of Applied Sciences media and hospitality degrees can also be completed in three years for the right students.

4. Applying to Dutch universities

If you have ever had any first-hand experience of Studielink you will know that it can be somewhat counter-intuitive, particularly if you are used to the Ucas system. While we would never claim to be experts in this part of the process, we know lots of people who are. By now, most Dutch universities admissions staff will be able to assist you with the typical difficulties that might emerge. The University of Groningen in particular has amassed quite some experience in this area.

While we can only scratch the surface in a blog post you might be interested to learn that all of the examples we have given above will be represented at our International HE conferences next month in London and Birmingham.

Participating Dutch Universities

Tilburg University

University of Groningen

Windesheim Honours College (London only)

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (London only)

Stenden University of Applied Sciences

A further six universities from France, Italy, Spain, USA and Australia will also be attending, allowing you the opportunity to learn about more than just the Dutch way of doing things.

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