University of Groningen: Facts & Figures

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Coming to the Netherlands to study? Check out our Top 10 Dutch Universities for International Students series of articles and videos.


Officially known as the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG), the University of Groningen was founded in 1614. It is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands as well as one of the largest. Since its inception, more than 100,000 students have graduated.

When it was founded, the university – at that time still just a “college of higher education” – had four faculties – Theology, Law, Medicine and Philosophy. Even in those first 75 years it was very international, with almost half of the students and lecturers coming from outside the Netherlands.

At the end of the seventeenth century, the school’s progress slowed due to theological differences of opinion and political problems, but got back on track in 1815, when the school gained national recognition and, in 1850, with the addition of a new main building, the Academiegebouw.

With the Higher Education Act of 1876, the school became a university and was duly renamed "Rijksuniversiteit Groningen" (RUG). Teaching began in Dutch (as well as in Latin) and the university added research to its functions, laying the foundations for the present research university.

The school continued to grow throughout the twentieth century, expanding from 611 students on the school’s 300th anniversary in 1914, to 1,000 in 1924, to 20,000 in 1994. There are currently over 27,000 students with an ever-growing international student population.

Total students enrolled: 27,507 students (1 October, 2010)
International students: 3,800 (14% of student population)
Foreign student breakdown:
EU: approx 60 percent
Non-EU: approx 40 percent

The most foreign students come from Germany. After that are the Asian students (China, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan), and then Latin American students, followed closely by US/Canadian students.
Students make up just over 25% of the city population of 190,000

Overall ranking (2010):
Times Higher Education: 170 in the world
QS World Rankings: 115 in the world

Groningen feels like a typical student town – and it’s not surprising, because the city’s population is 25% students! In fact, over half the population is under 35, so the city has a very young, laid-back vibe.
Although it’s not a large city, it’s still the largest in the north of the Netherlands and is known as the “Metropolis of the North”. Because of this, there’s a wide mix of arts, education, and business.
The university has a visible presence in this self-styled “City of Talent” – from the historic buildings in the downtown core to the contemporary medical centre. And students are everywhere, so you’ll never feel out of place!

Read an interview with Manxi Cao, a student from Shanghai

Motto: Verbum domini lucerna pedibus nostris
"The word of the Lord is a light for our feet"

With nine faculties and nine graduate schools, the University of Groningen is one of the largest in the country. Of the 58 bachelor's programmes, 9 are in English as are 83 of the 114 master's curricula, 15 of which are Double Degree programmes (of which 8 are prestigious Erasmus Mundus programmes).
These English-language courses are evidence of the school’s explicit desire to provide the most global learning experience possible – both by welcoming international students and by encouraging Dutch students to participate in exchange programmes abroad.

On the international scene, Groningen is probably best known for the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials – ranked in the top 10 in its field (Times Higher Education). However, the business school has just been given a new accreditation, AACSB (Top 5% Business Schools worldwide) and the university as a whole ranks in the top 150 worldwide. Within the Netherlands, Groningen has the highest-ranked law programme in the country, beating out even the better-known Leiden.

Acceptance rates:
Acceptance rates differ per faculty, but there are some standard requirements, including language proficiency tests and appropriate visas.
If you plan to study in English, check the requirements - they vary depending on your chosen programme of study.

If you want to study in Dutch, you can take a one-year prep course

There are also many other workshops designed for international students.

As an international student, you will also likely need a residence permit and possibly a visa.

Tuition for Dutch students is set annually by the government. For 2011-2012, this is € 1,713.
Tuition for international students is set by each school individually and varies per academic program.
For non-EEA students, the tuition ranges from € 7,500 for a bachelor of arts to € 32,000 for a bachelor of medicine. For master’s students, the tuition ranges from € 10,500 for arts and humanities studies to € 13,000 for economics and business.

Cost of living:
An example of an overview of average living expenses per month:
Accommodation (including gas, water, electricity): € 350 – 500
Books and study materials (may vary per study programme): € 300 per semester
Groceries: € 200
Insurances: € 75 – 110
Leisure: € 100
Other (non-recurrent) expenses:
Bicycle (secondhand): € 45 – 110
A number of items with their average prices:
Soft drink in restaurant: € 2.00
Beer: € 2.50
Wine: € 3.50
Pizza: € 7.00 – 15.00
Meal in a budget restaurant: € 15.00 – 20.00
See more average prices here.

Financial assistance:
There are scholarship options for both Dutch and non-Dutch students. Check out the school grant-finder or see the Nuffic grant-finder here:
EU students with valid residence permits can also get part-time jobs. 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 working in the Netherlands here, or on the Nuffic website (pdf file).

Check out the portal for student housing.

As the only city in the Netherlands without an official closing time for bars, there’s always something to do in Groningen after hours! Thursdays are the big student night out (beware of signing up for a 9am class on Fridays!), whereas Saturday is the main night for locals.

Because Groningen is a relatively small city – it’s only a 10-minute cycle ride from one end of the city to the other – and all the bars and clubs are in the downtown core, so it’s easy to walk – or stagger – from one bar to the next. Compared to Amsterdam where you have to know where to find the good spots or Rotterdam where the good spots are at least a bike ride away, Groningen’s city centre – voted best in the Netherlands in 2010 – is very gezellig (the Dutch word for cozy and friendly).

For a cup of coffee, a meal, or just a beer, check out one of the many outdoor terraces on the Grote Markt, open from early spring to late fall. There you’ll also find the labyrinth known as ‘The 3 Gezusters’ (also called 'the 3' by locals). This café, the largest in the Netherlands, is split up into 12 interconnected – and very different – cafés and dancing areas, so you are sure to find an area that you will like. The Vismarkt, Poelestraat, and Peperstraat are crowded every night of the week and most bars don’t close until 7am.

If you are looking to dance the night away, check out The Palace or the Kokomo Beach Club – both of which claim to be the largest discotheque in Groningen. If those don’t suit you, try the Golden Arm – the largest gay disco in the north of the Netherlands. And, if you’re looking for an “alternative”, check out the underground music at the Vera club.

If dancing isn’t your thing, you might get lucky at the Holland casino. And you won’t want to miss Groningen’s Noorderslag pop music festival. And, last but not least, there are two red-light districts near the centre of the city.

Read more about:

Who’s the boss:
Rector Magnificus: Professor Elmer Sterken
President: Professor Sibrandus Poppema

Alluring alumni:
Job Cohen, former mayor of Amsterdam and current leader of the Labour party;
Aletta Jacobs, the first woman to complete a university degree in the Netherlands and the first Dutch female doctor;
Wubbo Ockels, the first Dutch astronaut in space;
Prince Maurits Willem Pieter Hendrik of Orange-Nassau, van Vollenhoven, the eldest son of Princess Margriet and tenth in the line of succession from the throne;
Junkie XL - the top DJ and game sound track composer, whose real name is Tom Holkenborg

Request a brochure from the website of the specific programme you are interested in (Bachelor and Master programmes): University of Groningen Magazine
To find out if the University is coming to an education fair in a city near you, check the tour calendar.

International Service Desk,

Postal address:
International Service Desk
University of Groningen
PO Box 72, 9700 AB Groningen, The Netherlands
Tel +31 (0)50 363 8181
Fax +31 (0)50 363 7100

Visiting address
International Service Desk
Broerstraat 5
Academy Building, 1st floor, room 133a
Opening hours:
Monday-Friday from 12 to 4 p.m.

See some aerial photos here and check out a webcam on Academy Square where students gather to hang out, celebrate graduation, or are just passing by.

There’s also a virtual tour of the school here.