Academic Differences in Amsterdam

The way the grading system works in Amsterdam, takes some getting used to compared to back in Manchester. Exam period has just been here in Amsterdam. Therefore, I thought it would be useful to note the main differences I have experienced in my time here.


Most modules are either 4 or 8 weeks long. The assessments then are usually midway through and at the end, similar to modules in Manchester. This is refreshing in that the content of your course is constantly changing, and makes for more course options. The only drawback is that there is no ‘add, swap, drop’ period, so once you take a course you need to complete. Therefore, it is best to research your courses in advance of registration, and make sure you apply to them the minute registration opens.


The exams here in Amsterdam, if you even have any, are incredibly informal. Everyone I have spoken to has had their exams in the lecture theatre with the lecturer as invigilator. There is none of the protocol that takes place in England – no bags at the back, no arrival fifteen minutes before, no student card on desk etc. At first I found this really unnerving, just because I simply had never experienced anything so laid-back. On reflection now though, it’s actually helpful in many ways. Especially if you don’t thrive under exam-pressure, these style of exams are a much welcomed difference.


Coursework in Amsterdam, of course varies between courses. However, overall most of the people I’ve spoken to have had similar experiences. There is a lot of constant work, such as pop-quizzes, reading logs, short essays. On the other hand, though there are less longer time-consuming pieces. This obviously means you have to keep on top of your work, but frees you from having that a nervous-breakdown come reading week.


Marking in the Netherlands is out of 10. There are grade conversion charts online to help you convert but generally anything from a 7 above is considered good. However, the marking system is quite harsh and vague. Whilst it’s fairly easy to do well, anything above an 8.5 is rarely achievable.

In addition, whereas in Manchester there is a lot of support for assignments from tutors and mark schemes, the same is not the case here. We don’t have tutorials eithers. In most cases the lecturer will set a word document with the description and we just complete it. This approach generates a nice laid-back atmosphere, but can also be a little frustrating at times.

Overall, Amsterdam’s way of teaching is far more informal and laid-back. This has it’s benefits obviously, but at the same time everything is not always consistent which can be a little frustrating. It has been useful to experience these differences and I think it’s definitely taught me work more efficientl

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