Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands. It was founded in 1575 by William the Silent, Prince of Orange.
At the time, Prince William was leading the Dutch Revolt against the Spanish. There was no Dutch university in the northern part of the country, which was still under Dutch control. The only other university was in Leuven in the south - firmly under Spanish control. It is said that Prince William chose Leiden as a reward for the heroic resistance shown by the city in the face of Spanish attacks the previous year.
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Not surprisingly, Philip II of Spain, William's adversary and still the official Count of Holland, forbade any subject to study in Leiden. Still the school managed to survive and, eventually, to thrive.
Originally housed in the convent of St Barbara, the university moved to the Faliede Bagijn Church in 1577 (now the location of the University Museum) and in 1581 to the convent of the White Nuns, a site which it still occupies, though the original building was destroyed by fire in 1616.
Total students enrolled (2010-2011): 18,924
International students: approximately 1,600 (15% of the total student body)
International students percentage of total master's degree intake: 17%
Overall ranking (2011):
Times Higher Education: 124 in the world
QS World Rankings: 88 in the world
Like many Dutch universities, Leiden has no central campus, so its buildings are spread throughout the city. This, combined with the fact that the city is largely populated by students (they form almost 20% of the population), gives the city a relaxed but vibrant atmosphere.
Leiden University also has a reputation for being an elite institution, due in part to its long association with the Dutch royal family, but also because of the long tradition of studenten verenigingen, the Dutch version of student fraternities or societies.
The university is divided into six major faculties offering approximately 50 undergraduate programmes (two of which are taught in English) and over 100 graduate programmes (of which 65 master's are taught in English). The law school is particularly well known and highly regarded.
Leiden University’s motto is Praesidium Libertatis or Bastion of Liberty – stemming from the institution’s origins during the Eighty Years War. This motto is evidenced in its core values:
- Freedom of spirit, thought and opinion
- Freedom to carry out academic activities
- Societal responsibility
The university maintains a strong emphasis on academic integrity; students are “fully aware of the ethical consequences of scientific research and innovation, and of the effects of their activities on society.” Leiden University is actively working towards creating a more international student body, both to strengthen the international character of the school and to broaden the learning experience for all students.
Watch a video of reporter Ashleigh Elson experiencing the long traditions of Leiden University.
Read more about the application procedure for international students.
In addition to academic prerequisites (which vary per programme), you’ll also need a good command of the English language. Read more about the accepted English tests for Master's students. There are also classes for students who haven’t yet taken the TOEFL or who just want to improve their English.
If you’re a non-EU student, you will also probably need a residence permit and possibly a visa. Read more about those here.
Tuition for Dutch students is set annually by the government. For 2011-2012, this is € 1,713. This also applies to all European Economic Area (EEA), Swiss, and Surinamese students.
Tuition for non-EEA students is set by each school individually and varies per academic programme. At Leiden University, it ranges from € 5,280 for a bachelor's degree in archaeology to € 9,600 for a bachelor of science. Masters degrees range from € 14,650 in archaeology to € 19,700 in medicine.
Read more about tuition fees here.
Cost of living:
An example of an overview of average living expenses per month:
Accommodation: furnished room: € 250 - € 500, studio apartment: € 450, larger apartment: € 650 - € 1,000
Books and study materials (may vary per study programme): €100
Daily expenses (food, drinks, clothes, going out, public transport, etc.): €350
Other (non-recurrent) expenses:
Visa and residence permit fees (for non-EU students) : €433-€438
Bicycle (secondhand): €50-€100
Unforeseen expenses (high medical or telephone bill, etc.): €300
A number of items with their average prices:
Cup of tea or coffee in a café: €2,50
Cheese sandwich: €3,00
Big Mac: €3,15
Meal in a typical student restaurant: €12,50
Cinema ticket: €10,00
Hairdresser (cut and blow-dry): €25-€60
EU students with valid residence permits can also get part-time jobs to help fund their studies. Students from outside the EU must get a work permit in order to get a part-time job and, even with this permit, may only work for a maximum of ten hours per week (which can be condensed into 3 months of full-time work). Read more about this on the Nuffic website.
As one former student put it, Leiden has a “surprisingly active” nightlife for such a small city. But, because it’s small, people tend to go to the same places all the time, so there’s a cosy, community feel. Some popular spots include Café Einstein – a classic pub with the biggest terrace on the Nieuwe Rijn – or Proost – a little bar just yards from the Lipsius Humanities Building. If arthouse films are your thing, check out Het Kijkhuis, or, if you want to move your feet, head to the city hall which, surprisingly, houses a restaurant / dance club!
Read more about nightlife on the city of Leiden website.
Who’s the boss:
Paul van der Heijden, Rector Magnificus
- Most of the Dutch royal family, including both Queen Beatrix and her mother Queen Juliana.
- Prime Minister Mark Rutte
- René Descartes
- Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Request a brochure here.
PO Box 9500
2300 RA Leiden
2311 EZ Leiden
Telephone: +31 (0)71 527 27 27
Fax: +31 (0)71 527 31 18