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Welcome to Leiden University
Leiden is not a campus university, as such – the city itself is its campus, so university buildings can be found dotted across the city centre. Founded in 1575, students and city residents have been living side by side for centuries – it’s the oldest University in the Netherlands.
The city’s relatively small size (116,000 residents) gives it a friendly atmosphere. It also means it’s incredibly easy to walk (or bike) everywhere and, no matter where you go, you’re surrounded by beautiful, historical landmark buildings, such as the oldest University building – the Academy Building.
It’s a really inspiring place to study – Albert Einstein was once a professor here – and a vibrant place to live because of its proximity to international hubs like The Hague, not to mention the sheer number of international students taking advantage of cheaper tuition fees and its research reputation. And it’s safe, too, most students report feeling far safer in the Netherlands than in the UK.
You can’t really argue with the location – you can enjoy the benefits of living in a small, friendly city, but The Hague (where the University also has a campus) is just ten minutes away by train and, if you fancy more extensive shopping or nightlife, the bustle and excitement of Amsterdam is just a 30-minute train ride.
The university has a superb reputation with a number of notable alumni, including philosopher René Descartes, physics Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi and film director Paul Verhoeven among others.
Courses and fees
Leiden offers a broad range of postgraduate-level degrees – almost all of which are taught in English (73 Master’s programmes) – and six undergraduate programmes in English.
The University has seven faculties: Archaeology, Campus The Hague, Humanities, Medicine, Law, Social and Behavioural Sciences and Science. It also has a graduate school of teaching and an Honours Academy. The Academy offers a Pre-University College, an Honours College, the Leiden Leadership Programme and the Leiden University College The Hague, which offers an intensive Liberal Arts and Science programme to highly talented students.
As a general rule, British students need at least three A-levels passed with an A-C grade in general, academic subjects. The University also accepts the Access to Higher Education Diploma or Foundation Diploma with good results (A-B) in relevant subjects.
Scottish students need the Scottish Qualification Certificate with at least four Scottish Highers plus 3 Scottish Advanced Highers in general, academic subjects with grades A-B for Higher and A-C for Advanced Higher Subjects.
Some individual departments and programmes have additional requirements in terms of compulsory subjects and language proficiency. Most BA/BSc programmes are taught in Dutch, so if this is something you’re thinking about, you’ll need to prove your competency in the language. Archaeology, Dutch Studies, International Studies, Liberal Arts and Sciences: Global Challenges, South and Southeast Asian Studies and Psychology are the only ones which don’t require Dutch.
To be accepted onto a Dutch-language programme, you’ll need to complete a level 6 language exam at the Academic Language Centre. The University also offers intensive courses in the language.
For entry onto a PhD or Doctorate programme, you’ll need the equivalent of a Dutch Master’s degree. To be considered, you need to apply to the University Doctorate Board in the first instance.
EU (and Swiss and Surinamese nationals) pay the same fees as Dutch students. If this is your first bachelor’s degree in the country, fees will be €1,951/year for 2015/2016. However, if you’re studying at Leiden University College (LUC) The Hague, you have to pay an extra institutional fee on top of the tuition fee. For 2015/2016, this costs €2,135.
It’s more expensive for non-EU/EEA nationals, though. Their tuition fees start at €11,200 (for humanities and social science), rising to €16,500 for medicine. They pay the same €2,135 LUC fee if studying there.
Most students also have to pay a €100 application fee, which allows you to make a maximum of three applications in one academic year.
If you’re doing a second bachelor’s degree in the Netherlands, then costs are usually higher, with initial registration fees starting at €10,200 for >2015/16.
Fees for EU nationals for 2015/2016 are €1,951/year. However, there are some master’s programmes which the Dutch government does not subsidise and which therefore cost more (from €7,550 for 2015/2016) irrespective of students’ nationality. Further information about these can be found >here.
Fees for non-EU/EEA students vary according to the degree – check out the different costs are >here.
Bursaries and scholarships
There are a few scholarships available to EU students, but they only apply to master’s courses and most only cover part of the tuition fees.
The Leiden University Excellence Scholarship Programme (LExS) is available to high-achieving non-EU/EEA students enrolling on a master’s degree programme and to all nationalities of prospective students enrolling in a Master of Law Advanced Programme or the MSc in International Relations and Diplomacy.
You are only likely to be successful if you are in the top 10% of your previous studies, which should be relevant to the degree you’re applying for.
There are three types of award available: one for €10,000 of the tuition fee, one for €15,000 and one for the total tuition fee minus the statutory tuition fee or home fee. The number and type awarded depends on the relevant Faculty’s available budget.
There are also many other options available to prospective students of non-EU or specific countries and courses. The full list can be found >here.
Leiden also offers a ‘Graduation Fund’, which, despite its rather confusing moniker, actually gives additional financial support to students on a performance-related scholarship. It helps those out who are experiencing delays to their studies because of extraordinary circumstances (such as a pregnancy, a functional handicap or family circumstances). Students have to report the study delay to their Study Advisor within 30 days of the incident occurring.
‘Grantfinder’ on the Study in Holland >website also has further information about which other scholarships may be available to you. A list of scholarships administered by Nuffic (the Netherlands organisation for international cooperation in higher education) can be found >here.
110 different nationalities can be found at the University of Leiden, making it a diverse and vibrant city to live and study in. In 2013, 2,252 international students were enrolled on programmes at the University. So there’s lots of support available to non-home students. In fact, the Plexus Student Centre has a dedicated International Student Advisor
Nearly 100% of the master’s programmes are taught in English, so no Dutch language skills are necessary. However, if you want to pick up another language or integrate into Dutch society a bit, there’s also a huge amount of language support on offer at the Academic Language Centre (from one lesson/week courses to intensive four lessons/week options). Why not leave with a new language as well as a degree?!
There’s also a programme called Orientation Week Leiden (OWL) set up mainly for international students. It offers a full week of activities in September and three days in January to welcome new international students to the city. You'll also find your faculty or programme with have their own orientation day(s) as well.
Leiden University enjoys two campuses: one in Leiden and one in the International city of Peace and Justice: The Hague. The university’s main Leiden campus is made up of both historically protected buildings, dating back to 1575 whilst also boasting state-of-the-art facilities, labs and classrooms. The University has a strong position among the top research institutes worldwide, extensive high-level international contacts and is one of the founding members of the League of European Research Universities. The Leiden Bioscience Park is the largest in Europe, while Europe’s largest space centre, Estec, is also based in the city and enjoys close collaboration with the astronomy department. A recent European Commission study even found that academically, the University is on a par with Oxford and Cambridge.
Library and Study Facilities
One of the hubs of the University is the Plexus Student Centre, which houses a host of different facilities, from study and computer rooms to the Careers Service, the Plex-Fit gym and a common room for international students.
Leiden’s library has a pretty special place in European history – founded in 1575 when Prince William of Orange donated a copy of the Polyglot Bible, the library’s very first book, it was one of a small number of cultural centres that furthered the development of knowledge during the Enlightenment. History lesson over, there are a total of seven different library locations at the University – one main library and several faculty and institute libraries.
Collectively, the Leiden University Libraries (UBL) own more than 5.2 million books, over 44,000 e-journals, more than 1 million e-books and hundreds of databases and other electronic resources. Phew! They also house Special Collections, which include old prints, drawings and manuscripts from all around the world. The Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) houses the Walaeus Library for medical studies and is not part of the UBL. A new library is also being planned for The Hague campus.
There are a total of 1,842 study places at all locations (excluding faculty study spots) and students can access at least one library for 94 hours a week – no excuses for not getting that book then!
To give you an idea of what’s on offer, the Library Learning Centre at The Hague campus, for example, has 14 comfortable computer workstations (you can easily see here all the available computers at this library and at the other locations) and several comfortable seats and couches where you can take a break. The University Library, which underwent major renovation in 2012, has lots of individual and group study rooms as well as conference and reading rooms.
Dutch universities also have something called ‘study associations’. Every study department has one of these and they organise heaps of study-related extracurricular activities (like guest lecturers or symposia) and social events, as well as offering discounted book sales.
There’s also a General Service Department, which provides copying and printing.
Welfare and Financial Aid
Funding is a bit of a tricky situation for international students as there aren’t any financing options available for most UK or EU students.
International (EU) students are only eligible to apply for Dutch student finance if they have been living in the Netherlands for over five consecutive years or work there for at least 56 hours per month (or their Dutch parent or partner does).
Also, the Student Loans Company, unfortunately, does not offer a loan to British students who opt to do their entire degree abroad, either. It’s a good idea, therefore, to make sure you have enough money to cover your living expenses, which, the University estimates at €850-1,400 per month. However, if you already have a first degree, you may be eligible to apply for a career development or professional loan.
The cheapest way to study in Holland, however, is through a university exchange program, such as the Erasmus scheme. If you opt for this, you can still receive financial support from the UK.
Some students do get a part-time job to help fund expenses, but it’s not always that easy to find work if you don’t speak Dutch and probably not the best idea until you know what the workload is like!
You can get information about studying and any other questions you might have at the PITSstop information point, which is situated at the Plexus Student Centre and is open from 9am to 5pm every day. They can also help you schedule appointments to see relevant counsellors.
For further advice, students can speak to the university’s international student adviser. Open consultation hours are between 9.30 and 12 on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Plexus Student Centre. The adviser can help you understand the city and the university, as well as offer advice (or point you in the right direction for further help) on many matters, from financial difficulties to study-related problems. They can also help you organise an event for international students.
The Centre also holds workshops – like understanding the Dutch study system.
If you have a performance-related scholarship and something bad and unexpected happens, which causes delays to your studies and incurs additional costs, then there is some financing help available.
There’s also help available to those with a physical or psychological disability, chronic illness or dyslexia. The Fenestra Disability Centre can offer advice before you apply and student psychologists are also on hand to help out with any study problems or personal issues. You can even request a student buddy to help out with practical issues and planning your studies.
Psychological counsellors are also available to help you with any personal or study-related issues you may be having, from concentration problems to feelings of depression or anxiety. Both workshops and individual counselling are available and there is an open consultation hour from Monday-Friday from 11-12 in the Plexus Student Centre. Stressed-out students can also benefit from workshops in mindfulness-based study stress reduction, stress management and relaxation at the Centre.
The university also has its own day care centre, De Kattekop, situated next to the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences and which is only open to Leiden University staff and students.
The Careers Service hold plenty of study-related skills workshops (the central office is in the Plexus Centre), offering options from thesis writing dos and don’ts to mind mapping and time and stress management on offer at Leiden. There is also a weekly study support group on Wednesdays from 9-10.30am. Specific courses for doctoral students (like writing an excellent research grant proposal) are also on offer.
Study advisors and coordinators are also available for each faculty if you have any questions about your course or are struggling with any aspect of it.
You can also make an appointment to speak to a counsellor from the Student Careers Service. One-hour appointments to discuss things like career planning and interview preparation are held at different locations, days and times depending on which faculty you’re under. They also have drop-in appointments where you can get your CV looked over or to get any short questions answered.
If you’d rather get advice from the comfort of your computer, you can drop the service an email with general questions or to get feedback on your CV at [email protected]
The University also offers advice on working in the Netherlands and some tips for where to look for part-time work.
Graduates can take advantage of the Careers Service for up to one year after their graduation.
The university doesn’t have a dedicated health centre, but students can easily register with a local GP (or huisarts) and almost all speak very good English. International students can obtain advice on how to do this at the Plexus Student Centre.
EU students do need health and liability insurance (e.g. the EHIC card) to cover all possible expenses in the Netherlands. Don’t forget to take your card or insurance proof with you to any appointments!
There are also legal and financial counsellors at the Plexus Student Centre (in Leiden) and Stichthage (in the Hague), who provide students with advice and help on a wide variety of – often complex – issues from study delays due to extraordinary circumstances (such as illness), to studying with a disability and complaints and appeals procedures.
There are no halls of residence in Leiden, but the University has rooms available for international students with varying budgets (via the Accommodate option specifically for foreign students at Dutch housing agency DUWO), but it’s best to apply as soon as you can as the date of your application determines your place on the list. Housing is scarce in the Netherlands, so a big recommendation is to get your application in early. A must to secure your first choice.
If you leave it until late, you may only know where you’re living just before you start your course. You may also get offered a room in The Hague if there is nothing available in Leiden.
Accommodation is scarce and on a first-come-first-served basis, so to guarantee your place you'll need to pay a (non-refundable) €350 housing fee to cover the University’s costs of sorting you a room out. Once they find you something, you have to pay a €500 (refundable) deposit, €50 for a bed linen package and the first month’s rent in advance.
There are seven buildings in Leiden, which are exclusively for international students. Most are beautiful period buildings, too. All are fully furnished and come with a bed linen set, and either self-contained (with your own kitchen and bathroom) or shared with a communal kitchen, shower and toilet. Unsurprisingly, given how hot the Dutch are on cycling, each building also has its own cycle storage area!
The 19th century Herengracht is situated along one of the most beautiful canals in the city centre, close to the Faculty of Law, and is one of the smaller buildings available. It has 34 shared units and rent costs from €370-691.81 a month. An extra benefit here is the lovely courtyard in front of the building – fantastic in the summer months! A maximum of ten people share a kitchen while four at most share the showers and toilets.
The characterful Hooigracht/Kloosterpoort/Middelstegracht is also stunning from the outside – and retains original stained glass windows despite its 2007 renovation – and offers 206 modern, self-contained single (175) and double (11) studios. Some of the apartments have a balcony or terrace and there is a café conveniently situated on the ground floor for when you don’t have time to make breakfast. Prices start at €580 for a single studio, going up to €885 for a double.
An even more historic option is the bijoux Hogewoerd. Built in 1779 and reconstructed in 1993, this two-floor building has 13 self-contained units. Prices vary between €787.38-1,012.38.
Originally a pharmaceutical laboratory, the turreted, neo-gothic Hugo de Grootstraat is in the middle of the city centre and has a mixture of self-contained (25) and shared (67) housing options in its stunning building. The self-contained options start at €671.97-1,150.97 while a room with shared facilities varies between €426.74-637.10.
Situated in a quiet area, a ten-minute bike ride to the Social and Behavioural Sciences and Mathematics and Natural Sciences Faculties, Oranjelaan is exclusively offered to first-year students on the International Bachelor in Psychology (IBP) programme. There are 22 single rooms and a double room, all of which share communal amenities. There’s also a common room which is equipped with a TV. Prices range from €360-690 depending on room size.
The last of the Leiden options is the peaceful low building on Kaarsenmakersstraat. It’s one of the cheaper options available and contains 56 (54 single and 2 double) modern, shared units costing between €406.17-572.24. There’s a pretty view at the back of the building over a small canal and it’s about a ten-minute bike ride to the main station.
DUWO’s buildings in The Hague are more modern and there are several options available there, although prices tend to be more expensive (starting at around €535): the 180-unit De Klok student residence on Enthovenplein, the very new (finished in 2010) Stamkartstraat, which has 122 self-contained units and Rivierenbuurt-Zuid (Lauwersstraat, Spaarnedwarsstraat, Weteringkade), which has 43 rooms with shared facilities.
Also in The Hague is the Anna van Buerenplein, which has a mixture of academic and residential facilities and is situated slap bang next to The Hague Central Station. The accommodation is for first and second-year LUC students, who have to live there in their first two years. The studios are furnished and self-contained with private kitchen and bathroom facilities, but there is a common room on each floor so that you don’t get too lonely! Because the rooms vary in size, the prices differ according to how much space you get. As a rough guide, you’re looking at €550-570.
There are also separate options for PhD students and post doc researchers (single studios and 2-6 room apartments) via the Boerhaave Foundation. There are a small number of unfurnished apartments available, although the waiting list for one of these is currently a whopping nine months.
The Foundation is currently building 168 new apartments for PhDs and post docs. The apartments – a mixture of studio and shared apartments – are due for completion in August. They are all unfurnished.
Fancy visiting the University of Leiden in person? There are open days and ‘experience days’ (attend your first lecture and get a taste of university life) throughout the year, so see which one you can make…
The easiest way to get to the University is by public transport. It’s a 10-15 minute train ride from the Hague and 30-40 minutes from Amsterdam to the nearest train station, Leiden Centraal. The journey from the Netherlands’ main airport, Schiphol, takes just 20 minutes. When you arrive at Leiden Centraal, take the ‘Centrum’ or centre exit and, from there, it’s about a five to ten minute walk to the university. Alternatively, you can take a bus from outside the station and get off at Breestraat bus stop or rent a bike from the shops at the station.
To plan your train journey: http://www.ns.nl/en/travellers/home.
To plan your bus journey: http://9292.nl/en.
It’s not that easy to access the city centre by car, but if you do pick this option, there are number of fairly central car parks (those further out offer free shuttle buses to the centre) to choose from.
- Haagweg Haagweg 8, 2311 AA Leiden (Leiden’s largest car park, it’s reasonably priced and offers a free shuttle to the city centre)
- Centrum Morspoort Bloemfonteinstraat 2, 2312 ZD Leiden
- Langegracht Langegracht 3, 2312 NV Leiden
- Haarlemmerstraat Middelstegracht 50, 2312 TX Leiden
- Breestraat Kaardesteeg 11, 2311 KN Leiden
- Maliebaan (navigate towards the middle of the Maliebaan) (Free)
Further information can be found here.
“The quality of the education for the price (if you are HOME/EU) surpasses what is on offer in the UK, with fees being <10% of UK costs due to generous government subsidies! Make the most of it, especially in any field studying international 'something' as cities like the Hague and Brussels are on your doorstep and guest lecturers are abundant!” redgie321 - Masters of Public International Law graduate.
“I really enjoy it here. It’s good being in a country where literally everyone speaks English, because it helps with everything, I literally never have to worry about anything getting lost in translation!” annieappletoothpaste - current student.
“Weteringkade is pretty sociable; all of the BA International Studies students living there are international students and Leiden is only 10 minutes away by train from The Hague. And Weteringkade isn’t far from the station” Cll_ws - Current student.
“Living in Leiden is awesome. There is no other way to say it. The city is located almost perfectly in a geographical sense. You have Rotterdam and Amsterdam both 30 minutes away on the train, Den Haag, 10 minutes away, Schiphol Airport, 10 minutes, as well as the beautiful scenery of the tulip fields (in Spring) and the beach just a stone throw away - making a perfect bike ride” OhFive - Current Masters student.
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