Universiteit Leiden

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Academic approach

Although each Dutch university has its own culture and tradition, there are some practices that are common within the academic approach in the Netherlands. Four things you need to know about our academic culture:

Teaching methodology

Dutch teaching methodology is founded on respect for the individual’s opinions. But this respect is not limited to educational institutions; it is a national trait and the cornerstone of the Netherlands’ diverse society. If you ask questions during a lecture you are seen as being interested in the topic, not disrespectful towards the lecturer. We expect you to think about what’s presented to you, express your own opinion and look for possible weaknesses or contradictions.

Dutch higher education

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Interaction in the classroom

In Dutch universities interaction in the classroom is highly appreciated. We expect you to think about what we tell you and develop and express your own opinion. You are free to ask questions and be critical about what lecturers or fellow students say. Dutch people in general, and academics in particular, tend to be very opinionated. They enjoy nothing more than a good discussion and they tend to question each other’s ideas, sometimes with great passion. Your own creativity will be the only limitation to how you apply your newly gained knowledge.


As a student in the Netherlands you’ll enjoy a great deal of independence. The lecturers will inform you about the study material, but leave the specific planning up to you. And when it comes to assignments, you’ll be adequately briefed but given the freedom to choose your own approach.


Honesty is greatly appreciated in the way you communicate in the Netherlands. What many cultures perceive as ‘losing face’ is much less important here. Given that Dutch society is quite individualistic, Dutch students prefer to show that they can be critical, rather than loyal to their classmates. In fact, we expect you to be critical. So don’t hesitate to question your fellow students, professors and even people in senior positions on study-related issues.

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