International education

To help students from the Netherlands and abroad prepare for their future careers, VU Amsterdam devotes a great deal of time and attention to the internationalization of its range of programmes. This includes education in the international classroom, in addition to various Dutch-taught Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes. The international classroom’s language of instruction is English and the curriculum includes courses that provide both an international and an intercultural perspective on the material. In addition to that, the presence of both Dutch and foreign students ensures that students learn how to interact and cooperate with students from other countries and cultures.

In addition to the Dutch-taught programmes, the university’s range of programmes includes a variety of courses taught in English. VU Amsterdam offers a complete English-language programme at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level. VU Amsterdam offers a grand total of 7 Bachelor’s programmes and more than 115 full Master’s programmes in English, including a large number of varying specializations in virtually every area of expertise. 

The number of international programmes, courses and students from different nationalities at VU Amsterdam is growing. The International Office contributes to this by means of policy, recruitment, supervision and commitment.

Minor programmes taught in English 
Students can enrol in English-taught minor programmes with a specially tailored selection of subjects, or individual courses in specific areas of expertise. VU Amsterdam provides the option of creating your own selection of subjects, taken at the university or a partner institution.

The influx of talented international students helps us improve the quality of our English-taught programmes. This international influx helps create a truly international classroom. The international classroom is an international environment where students learn to work with classmates from different cultures and nationalities, exposing them to other ways of teaching and assessment, where they learn to express themselves in a different language than their native language and that allows them to gain a broader perspective on life and work by exposing them to different customs. This helps students to develop international and intercultural competences, knowledge and skills.

The International Office supports the internationalization of the curriculum through knowledge and experience, offering advice on how to improve and enhance the appeal of our programmes. The International Office also organizes the International Classroom Knowledge Series. This series includes lectures, workshops and seminars that are specially designed for faculty employees and VU employees involved in the international curriculum and classroom developments.

Het International Office ondersteunt bij de internationalisering van het curriculum door vanuit kennis en ervaring te adviseren bij het inhoudelijk aantrekkelijker maken van het programma. Daarnaast biedt het International Office de International Classroom Knowledge Series. Dit is een programma van colleges, workshops en seminars, speciaal ontworpen voor faculteits- en VU-medewerkers die betrokken zijn bij het internationale curriculum en classroom ontwikkelingen.

Protocol for new English-taught programmes
Before launching a new international programme, the International Office conducts market research into market potential, competitive position, recruitment opportunities and expected number of students. The VU International Office also advises on naming the programme and provides counsel and supervision during the communication process and the procedures for setting up the programme. It also assists in the marketing of the new programme or specialization and in making the curriculum more international.

Internationalization scan
New and existing programmes can use the VU Quality Standard for Internationalization Checklist to assess the degree and quality of a programme in terms of its international appeal, and to take care of the application for the relevant NVAO (Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders) quality certificate.

International exchange programmes are a core aspect of internationalization. By encouraging students to study abroad for a semester or go on other short-term stays abroad, we give our students the opportunity to develop and grow outside the familiar walls of VU Amsterdam and to gain 21st-century skills in a global context. Most stays abroad are student exchange programmes for one semester. 

An exchange is also called outgoing credit mobility. These are all short-term stays abroad at one of our 250 partner institutions that are part of the study programme and for which students will receive credits (ECTS). The faculty examination boards determine which courses will be approved within the programme, taking into account the level and content of each subject. 

International Mobility Programme

In addition to the standard exchange programmes, VU Amsterdam participates in various other international mobility programmes: 
  • Work placements
    International work placements are important for the future career of a student. Students not only gain work experience, but also learn more about another country’s language and culture and what it’s like to work in an international setting. Many companies highly value international work placements for this and a number of other reasons. VU Amsterdam aims to actively contribute to student development in this way. 
  • Faculty-led programmes
    VU Amsterdam also offers a range of faculty-led programmes to broaden the options of foreign exchange experiences for students. A faculty-led programme is a VU course or part of a VU course taught abroad by a VU lecturer to a group of students enrolled in this course. A faculty-led programme is more than just a study trip and ideally includes an element of community engagement. 
  • Amsterdam Summer School
    VU Amsterdam Summer School offers students the opportunity to take an intensive two-week training course during the summer months of July and August. VU Amsterdam offers a large number of courses in virtually any field. 
  • Semester in Amsterdam
    This programme gives foreign exchange students the option of studying at VU Amsterdam for one or two semesters.

VU Amsterdam has drafted an integrated recruitment policy for the recruitment of international students, which, in addition to global marketing, includes a selection of specific countries for the acquisition of additional activities and resources. The above may include visiting education fairs and schools, giving presentations, setting up adwords campaigns and information pages, hosting webinars and creating social media campaigns. VU Amsterdam also works with carefully-selected recruitment agencies in China, Indonesia, India, Russia, South Korea and the US and the university has representatives stationed in Russia and Colombia. They recruit students, help them during the application process and conduct part of the preselection process. 

Current students and alumni also assist in recruitment activities. These ambassadors are visible on the VU website and are available to answer any questions from prospective students, give presentations or guided tours and post on the university’s social media. For existing international programmes and specializations aiming to attract a larger number of international students, or programmes struggling with international recruitment, a broad analysis is carried out to discover possible causes and advice is given on how to grow the number of new applicants. A plan is then drawn up and put into action.

The staff at the International Office assists students in the application process. The International Office conducts an initial screening of admissibility based on several documents. This process includes diploma evaluations and the completion of other parts of the enrolment file. The team takes care of admission for Bachelor’s students when the programme’s admission requirements have been published. International Student Advisors offer expert advice on admission to the faculty, after which they can decide whether the candidate will be admitted or not.

VU Amsterdam is involved in an Erasmus+ project, Mastermind Europe, that aims to develop guidelines and tools for admission requirements for Master’s programmes based on skills, as an alternative to diploma evaluation. Various programmes are involved in the pilot.

Admission to all VU Amsterdam programmes is dependent on level of competency in the language of instruction. VU Amsterdam’s language desk offers language courses to students, employees and teachers.

The availability of scholarships and grants contributes to various VU Amsterdam internationalization objectives. The VU International Office manages multiple scholarships and grant programmes for both incoming and outgoing students. Examples of available scholarships for students include:

  • VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP): for incoming international students who have been admitted to a Master’s degree programme at VU Amsterdam. 
  • Holland Scholarship Programme – incoming (HSP incoming): for incoming non-EU/EER students who have been admitted to Master’s degree programme at VU Amsterdam.
  • GLOBE scholarship: for VU students going on exchange to a non-EU/EER partner institution.
  • Grant from the Subsidies and Grants Information Desk: for VU students on exchange in a non-EU/EER country.
  • Holland Scholarship Programme – outgoing (HSP-outgoing): for VU students going on exchange to a partner institution in South Africa or Indonesia, or to Renmin University in China or Beijing University of Technology.