Universities in the Netherlands are seeking quality students from Korea, said Eunmi Postma, director of the Nuffic Netherlands Education Support Office (Neso) Korea.
"Dutch universities are seeking to attract more international students, but it is focusing more on the quality than quantity," Postma said in an interview with The Korea Times.
"The excellence of Korean students has been recognized by Dutch schools and therefore they are increasing the amount of scholarships for them."
Nuffic Neso Korea, a nonprofit organization, was founded by the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education (Nuffic). It arranges the Orange Tulip Scholarship (OTS) which is sponsored by Dutch universities and Heineken.
A unique aspect is that the OTS offers scholarships for Korean students only. In its fourth year, the scholarship is providing some 255,000 euros, the largest amount so far, to 21 Korean students in master's programs.
The director said that Korean students' high mobility to countries abroad and their enthusiasm to invest in overseas education was one motive behind the increase in funding.
But not only are Korean students willing to study abroad, they are also proving their excellence, according to Postma.
"There are some 650 Korean students at Dutch universities. The students there have proved that they are hardworking and committed to their studies," she said.
Although Korean students mainly pursue overseas education in the United States or other English speaking countries, the Netherlands can also be an attractive choice, Postma said.
"Students can study at top-notch schools in the Netherlands at relatively low costs. There are also some 1,500 programs offered in English," she said.
According to the director, 12 Dutch universities are in the list of the top 200 institutions in the world. Utrecht and Lieden universities, which rank in the top 100, are among the nine schools offering scholarships for Korean students.
And although it differs according to areas of study, a significant number of programs are calculated to have similar costs to attending a university here in Korea, at 7,000 to 8,000 euros, or 10 million won a year, for two semesters.
The Dutch brewing company Heineken's office in Korea is also providing scholarships for master's programs and those who receive the scholarship will be granted a job interview.
Nuffic Neso Korea has played an important role in building ties between Dutch schools and those in Korea. Up to now, 108 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) have been signed between Korean and Dutch universities to promote student and faculty exchanges.
These allow exchanges of faculty members as well as dual-degree programs for students. There are short-term programs such as exchange programs as well as degree programs for all levels, bachelor, master and doctoral.
"The great thing about pursuing a Ph.D. in the Netherlands is that there is no tuition, as those studying are not considered as students but rather as employees, and therefore are paid for their research activities," said Postma.
The director said her background as a Korean adoptee had her develop a natural interest in her birth country. This motivated her to study Korean language and culture through a course at the Leiden University and became a freelance correspondent in Seoul in early 2000.
But the essential driving factor behind her playing a key role in establishing ties between Dutch and Korean institutions was her belief in the importance of experiencing different cultures.
"Multicultural societies are the future. The Netherlands is already highly multicultural ― there are some 200 nationalities living in the country. But Korea has just started moving into this direction," said Postma.
"Learning a foreign language and experiencing its culture can help promote understanding of people from different backgrounds, which is crucial for a multicultural society."