Study in Holland: an interview with Mervin Bakker

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Voertaal has interviewed a few students who have studied in the Dutch cities Leiden, Groningen and The Hague. 

How does a prospective student go about searching for a study programme? What are the admission requirements? How will you fund your studies? 

Menán chats to Mervin Bakker, regional director of the Netherlands Education Support Office (Nuffic Neso South Africa)1 about the website, your guide to studying in the Netherlands2.

Mervin Bakker (back row, right)

Mervin, thank you for chatting to Voertaal! One of the first concerns for prospective students is funding. The website provides a list of scholarships. Tell us more about the scholarship that will launch soon. Also what does the NRF-Nuffic PhD programme entail?

It is a pleasure talking to you! It is logical that funding is one of the main concerns for anyone considering to study abroad. However, I do think that before funding, the quality of education should be on the top of your priority list and, in that regard, I am happy that the Netherlands offers world-class higher education.

There are a few scholarships specifically for South African students.

Firstly, the Orange Tulip Scholarship programme for talented South Africans who would like to study in the Netherlands for a Bachelor’s, Master’s or MBA degree. This programme provides partial scholarships funded by participating Dutch universities. Furthermore, there are the scholarships for Master’s programmes and short courses under the Orange Knowledge scholarship programme. These scholarships focus on mid-career professionals. Finally there is the jointly funded NRF-Nuffic doctoral training programme for South Africans with academic aspirations who would like to pursue a PhD either partly in the Netherlands, partly in South Africa for a joint degree, or full-time in the Netherlands. also offers information about study programmes in the Netherlands. What are the most popular programmes?

Most popular are, traditionally, engineering and business degrees. What we are trying to do through our website and through personal counselling, is provide validated information to South African students to make sure they make a well-informed decision. We represent the whole Dutch education sector, so visitors to our website and our office can rest assured that they will get the full picture of study opportunities and student life in the Netherlands.

Tell us more about the Orange Knowledge Programme.

The Orange Knowledge Programme aims to contribute to the sustainable and inclusive development of South Africa. We aim to do this by strengthening the skills and knowledge of professionals and their organisations through institutional collaboration projects, tailor made training and scholarships. The programme is funded by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented in 54 countries. In South Africa we focus on projects and programmes in the agriculture and water sectors with specific focus on vocational education and training. 

What are the most valuable aspects of student and staff mobility between South Africa and the Netherlands?

I strongly believe that people-to-people contact is the most important and valuable aspect of the relation between South Africa and the Netherlands, because when people from different countries meet, you immediately see growing interest in each other and increased understanding for different perspectives. On the academic level, I believe we can learn a lot from each other because of the different contexts we live in. Take for example water: in the Netherlands we have a lot of water and we have to work hard to keep our feet dry. In South Africa there is a growing threat of droughts. So we both have our challenges with water and if students and academics from SA and NL work together we can jointly find solutions that will be more creative and innovative by using the perspectives from both countries.

1 Nuffic Neso South Africa is a representative office of Nuffic, the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education. 

2 is an initiative of Nuffic.


Read more on about, for example: study programmes; working after your studies; student stories; life in Holland, finances; planning your stay; etc.


Also read Voertaal interviews with South Africans
who have studied in the Netherlands:

Den Haag-studie-uitruil: ’n onderhoud met Tenita Kidelo

Groningen-studie-uitruil: ’n onderhoud met Shawna-Leze Meiring

Leiden-studie-uitruil: ’n onderhoud met Carmi Britz

Leiden-studie-uitruil: onderhoud met Marlies Haupt

Buro: MvH
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