Numerus Fixus: decentralised selection

The way that Numerus Fixus operates has changed since 2017. In the past, places on popular courses were sometimes allocated by a lottery controlled centrally by the Dutch government. This is no longer the case, meaning that wherever there is a restriction on the number of places, universities are now free to select the students they want. Whereas it used to be possible to get a place on restricted subjects with relatively modest grades in A’ levels and other high school leaving certificates, such students are unlikely to be successful in the future. This does not affect students applying to non-selective Bachelor’s degrees which still constitute the vast majority of English-taught programmes at Dutch universities.

Most of the courses taught in English are not subject to Numerus Fixus. The exceptions include medicine, psychology, international business administration, economics and physiotherapy. However, it is to be anticipated that the range of courses that are affected will increase. To reflect this growth, it is now possible for students to apply for two such programmes in the future. It used to be the case that you could only apply for one at a time.

The process by which universities choose their own students is known as “Decentralised Selection” and it is probable that you will come across this description, or “Limited Enrolment” more often than Numerus Fixus. Decentralised basically means controlled by the university rather than the government.

At the same time that the overall process of selection is changing, the procedures for each individual course are often also changing, so it is very difficult to generalise from one university to the next. It is even possible that different degrees at the same university will have different selection criteria and timetables.  As a result, we cannot outline a nationwide policy regarding Numerus Fixus, but we can certainly give you a rough idea of what to expect.

The first thing to note for courses with Decentralised Selection is that the application deadline is likely to be earlier, typically 15th January for the following September. Students applying before the deadline will definitely be considered. Those applying after the deadline will only be considered if there are places remaining. You will have to create an account with Studielink before this date. Once the university has been notified of your application, you will be sent further details of the next steps you need to take, assuming you meet the minimum entry requirements. It is likely that the next step will involve the submission of a motivation letter and a cv, as well as any specific application form for your chosen course.

After completing the necessary paperwork, there will probably be an additional step to the application process. This could be taking part in an assessment day at the university or the completion of an online exam of some sort. It might also include a formal interview. This would probably happen in late February or March. While it is often not obligatory to attend the assessment day in person unless you are resident in the Netherlands (or occasionally within 300kms of the campus), we would certainly recommend that British students take this assessment day as a perfect opportunity to visit the university if they haven’t done so already.

After the assessment day, the university will consider the performance of all candidates in the exam or other activity they have utilised. Students will be ranked numerically based on the overall strength of their application as well as their performance. Students who are ranked up to the limit of places on the course will be made an offer via Studielink, usually in mid-April. This offer must be accepted or declined within two weeks. Students who are ranked just outside the limit of places will effectively be placed on the waiting list and students who are not even close to the limit will now have to consider their alternatives.

The selection process at University Colleges, and for some English-taught courses such as medicine, has largely been run along these lines for many years already (except for the fact you can now apply to two such courses rather than one). These changes will mostly have an impact on students on Dutch-taught degrees in competitive fields.

Universities publish their rules regarding Numerus Fixus and decentralised selection on their websites. These are in Dutch.


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