This question applies to universities in the Netherlands

If a given programme at an institution is being taught in English in full, would I be right in assuming that two otherwise identical applications (or as close as possible), differing only in whether the applicant knew the local language of the country where the institution is based, would also be ranked differently—with the applicant knowing the language being ranked better—despite the programme being listed as English-language without any assumptions of local language knowledge?

  • I'm going to guess that if you know English you can get along anywhere in Europe pretty well. I don't see why anyone would have additional requirements.
    – Buffy
    Sep 5, 2019 at 17:35
  • 1
    @Buffy the question wasn't specifically about it being a requirement, but whether it was a bonus or not. It's understood that knowing English is a sufficient criterion.
    – mezenkur
    Sep 5, 2019 at 21:06

1 Answer 1


I doubt any selector would mark you down because you don't speak the local language on the evaluation sheet. At the same time, I would also assume that it's in the back of the mind of evaluators: After all, succeeding in a place isn't just tied to the language in which classes are taught. Knowing the local language has many other benefits:

  • You can participate in the coffee conversations of your peer students.
  • You will have an easier time having a large and supportive social environment.
  • You will likely be happier. It's hard living in a place where you don't speak the local language: Many otherwise mundane things (registering your residence, getting a driver's license, dealing with visa issues) are all difficult if you don't speak the language; they will eat your time, and they will in the long run also eat at your happiness. You will feel lonely and isolated.

Evaluators know all of this, and it will be on their minds when comparing applications even if there is no specific field on the evaluation sheet.

I'll add one other thing: Universities in Europe are largely funded by taxpayers. It is clear to everyone who works there that that comes with the obligation to educate the next generation of people living in the respective country. They do not necessarily have to come from that country, but it's a loss to the country to educate people who end up not staying in the long run, and someone who doesn't speak the local language isn't likely going to stay.

  • Regarding the last paragraph: I'm already aware, I'm writing this from an European background, so the process locally is functionally identical. Otherwise, those are good points.
    – mezenkur
    Sep 5, 2019 at 21:05
  • Many universities teach in the local language(s). Being able to do this can be helpful. I guess this is more relevant when seeking a more advanced position; "admission" probably refers to PhD or master level or thereabouts.
    – Tommi
    Sep 6, 2019 at 9:12

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