The three islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are located in the Caribbean Sea and represent the three special municipalities of the Netherlands. They are recognized as overseas countries and territories of the European Union. On these islands there are 1 university in Bonaire (International University School of Medicine), 1 university in Sint Eustatius (American University of Integrative Sciences) and 1 university in Saba (Saba University School of Medicine). The municipalities have a gross domestic product per capita of $25,300 to $21,600 and a life expectancy at birth of 80.2 years which highlights their relatively great economy and social life. Moreover, 9 out 10 residents say they are happy, rating life satisfaction at 8 and satisfaction with education opportunities at 7.5. For further information, the contact details for the three National Offices for the Caribbean Netherlands, which are affiliated with the Dutch government, can be accessed here.
All three institutions are medical schools and, thus, offer Medicine or related courses. A Pre-Medical programme is completed on the respective island, for the first two years, after which students are allocated in a hospital in the US or Canada for the third and fourth year. Graduates of the Bachelor’s programme can then apply to the MD Medical course which can last for four or five years, depending on their knowledge and experience. After graduation, students can start working in the US or Canada, as there is little opportunity in the field on the three small islands. Even though all universities have been accredited only recently, already thousands of national and international students have graduated from there. The academic years is split between 3 semesters: Fall (September-December), Spring (January-April) and Summer (May-August).
Applications are accepted throughout the year, with incoming classes starting each semester. Students who recently finished high school or have less than 90 credits of undergraduate courses are required to take the Pre-Med programme. The only requirement is evidence of a high-school-leaving certificate in a science subject, provided you have an entry visa to the country. Applications to the MD Medical course are accepted based on a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine. The application process happens online, and prospective students should check beforehand with the university’s website as other forms of assessment might be required. All institutions welcome students from all around the globe. The main language of the islands is Papiamentu, but courses are provided in English. Nevertheless, more than 87% of the population speaks more than just one language including English, Dutch or Spanish.
Tuition fees will differ from course to course, even depending when do they start, so it is advisable to refer to the specific university. However, they tend to generally range between $4,000-$5,000 per semester for the Pre-Med course and $7,000-$8,000 per semester for the MD course which, in comparison with the average US numbers, are significantly smaller. Financial aid and scholarships are provided, especially for students coming from the US and Canada.
Information for International Students
Living costs on the islands tend to be slightly more expensive than the average world numbers. For reference, renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre of Bonaire is about $733 per month. Data for the other two islands is not available. Nevertheless, the Dutch government is working towards a strategy to lower the living costs and to increase the economic power and income. For future medics and practitioners alike, the three special municipalities are a beautiful place to continue your studies. With low tuition costs and real potential for economic growth, the Caribbean Netherlands islands are able to provide high-quality teaching and job opportunities.