Beautiful example of global citizenship

For newcomers and students who completed their high school in another language, THUAS offers a Bridging Year (Schakeljaar). “Everyone should have the opportunity to develop in a meaningful way at their own level.”

four students sitting in a classroom, laughing The Bridging Year is a preparatory track for people who completed high school abroad and now want to enrol in higher education in the Netherlands. You will learn everything you need to know to study in the Netherlands: of course Dutch and English, but also Dutch culture and how students are taught in the Netherlands.

Another world

“About 95% of the students are holders of a residence permit, for example from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, China, Russia, Turkey, Eritrea or Somalia,” explain Ellen Zwarteveen en Sandra ter Weele, the Bridging Year coordinators. “Most of them are refugees and have ended up in a world that’s very different from where they came from.”

Intensive track

Settling in and being able to follow a study starts with knowing the language. Ellen: “Their knowledge of the Dutch language is usually limited.” That is why initially the participants in the Bridging Year have 16 hours of Dutch classes a week. Often their English skills are also less advanced. “And that is an important requirement for an international higher education programme.” In addition to the much-needed language lessons, the participants will also receive extra classes in math, science or economics, depending on their previous education. All together, this is a very intensive programme. The students in the Bridging Year go to school five days a week and still have to complete homework assignments.

No idea

Many newcomers also have no idea what studying in the Netherlands entails. “In their home country they often had very traditional classroom-based education,” explains Ellen. “We also teach the students studying skills. How do you study in the Netherlands? How do you ask a critical question?”

Impossible task

Deciding on your own study choice is also a new experience for many participants. Sandra: “In the countries where most of the refugees come from it’s the government who decides what they should study based on their grades. In the Netherlands students are free to make their own choices. For Dutch youth it’s already hard enough to choose from 250 different university of applied sciences degree programmes. For these newcomers it’s almost an impossible task. We help them with the process. They follow a study choice track, attend Open Days and watch lectures. Having dreams and ambitions is important, but a realistic study plan is even more important.”


But the Bridging Year offers more than just education. Better social and cultural integration often results in better study results. “We also focus on Dutch culture, for example by visiting an exhibit about Breitner and Israëls in the Kunstmuseum Den Haag. We also visit the parliament to learn more about our democratic values. And the lesson content also covers topics such as women’s emancipation.”

No network

“The Bridging Year is also about settling into a new place. These students don’t have a network. We bring them into contact with Dutch students through a mentor project. We also encourage them to attend lectures in the degree programmes of their choice.”

Global citizens

The participants in the Bridging Year also work together with THUAS students on joint projects. “This exchange fits perfectly with our Global Citizenship and Inclusive Education WIN theme. We want all our students to become global citizens. The Bridging Year is a perfect example of this.”