More than 16 million inhabitants of the Netherlands live on a flat delta at the mouth of the mighty Rhine and Meuse rivers. Much of Europe’s economic development has taken place, and still does take place, along the banks of these two European arteries. Rotterdam, at the mouth of the rivers, has goods are unloaded here. Not all of these products stay in the Netherlands; most are eventually distributed elsewhere, often after a process of refinement or fabrication has added value.
The Netherlands is a net exporter of food. Among other things it exports more dairy products than any other country of the world. The Netherlands is also home to many multinational companies, among them Shell, Philips and its national airline KLM. But as benefits a modern economy, the country’s prosperity is based primarily on the advanced services it provides on a worldwide basis.
A country that offers global services has an attitude of openness towards the rest of the world. It is open to do business, but it is also open socially and culturally. This makes the Netherlands ideally suited for receiving people who seek to enrich their knowledge through study abroad. What they find is hospitality in an open, safe society that is accustomed to dealing with people from around the world, and above all, to working with them.
Holland: An Urban Environment With A Flavor Of Friendliness
‘The rest of the world is a big place’, say the Dutch, well aware of how small their country is with its 41,526 square kilometers. In this well-cabled country, programming from the neighboring countries and beyond can be received in nearly every household. It is also evident in the average Dutch bookstore. The Netherlands imports more books in English than any other non-English-speaking country. And the world’s largest scientific publisher is located in the Netherlands: Elsevier Science Publishing. Cinemas show films from around the world in their original languages.
Alongside the usual church towers and synagogues, the minarets of mosques are now appearing in the large cities.
The largest city is Amsterdam, but even this city has a population of only 735,000. The Dutch have an urbane, cosmopolitan lifestyle, but in cities built on a human scale. Closer inspection reveals that the cities in the western part of the country in fact form a continuous ring, 60 kilometers in diameter. It’s called the ’Randstad’ and includes Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Leiden and Delft. But each city has its own character, specialties, history and city center, and even its own accent in the Dutch language.
Holland: A Great Higher Education Destination
People live in this cosmopolitan atmosphere without losing their own identity. However, this is largely due to their education. A well-educated populace is the first requirement for maintaining a high level of prosperity. Schooling is compulsory up to the age of 16. All education, from primary school all the way to the postgraduate-level research schools, is financed by the government, which also keeps an eye on standards through independent inspectorates. It is not a state system, however. In no way does the government dictate which curricula or textbooks should be used, nor does it advocate any particular educational philosophy. It merely sets rules regarding the duration of studies, and the achievement levels that must be reached. The result is that the Netherlands has a broad spectrum of educational institutions, each with its own character and in some cases its own philosophical background. Teachers are not there merely to pass on knowledge. Their aim instead is to help young people to discover knowledge themselves, and to form their own well-founded judgements regarding that knowledge. To do this, a person must be able to communicate with other peoples and cultures, which is why learning foreign languages is so important not only in secondary schools but also in the final years of primary school. Every person in the Netherlands who has gone beyond primary school–and that is nearly everyone-has passed state exams in English and probably another foreign language as well. Many Dutch people enroll in the growing number of courses and study programs that are taught in English alongside the regular higher education conducted in Dutch.
Internationally speaking, Dutch higher education has a very good reputation. This is based not only on such Nobel-prize winners as the Tinbergen brothers (Jan in economics, and Nico in ethology), but more importantly on the standard of the average graduate. In general, it is fair to say that a person who has completed a program of Dutch higher education has mastered the breadth and depth of theory they need to work creatively within their discipline. A large share of all study programs is occupied with writing papers, working in groups to analyze and solve specific problems, acquiring practical work experience in internships, and conducting experiments in laboratories. There are close links between the world of work and the needs of society on the one hand, and higher education and research on the other. The government spends nearly 2.5 billion euros (USD 2.7 billion) a year supporting fundamental research, which is conducted by universities, research institutes and private enterprises. This is 160 euros (USD 175) per head of population. Dutch employers expect to be able to put young applicants directly to work, even in positions of responsibility, without first giving them extra training. Because of their broad educational backgrounds, young graduates are thought capable of dealing with new developments and novel problems. Experience shows that people with Dutch higher education function very well in other parts of the world as well. The cosmopolitan outlook of Dutch institutions, and the familiarity student’s gain with scientific literature from other countries, ensure that they quickly feel at home in a foreign professional situation. They move easily into excellent positions. They have adopted the innovative mentality that is such an essential part of Dutch education. But at the same time they have learned the value of tradition and continuity, both are part of Dutch higher education, which traces its roots back to the 16th century.