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Groningen: elite sports student city!

Ilse Kolkman
Watch the video about Groningen elite sports study city: Ilse Kolkman

Would you like to know what it's like to combine top-level sports with a study at the RUG, just like Ilse Kolkman? As a university we offer space for your personal ambitions and qualities!

Our university offers exceptional talents, such as elite athletes, the extra boost they need. Thanks to our Elite Sports Student Programme you can make the most of both your athletic and professional careers. Find out why our programme for professional athletes is unique to the Netherlands.

What is the Elite Sports Student Programme?

The University of Groningen Elite Sports Student Programme (Studenten Topsportregeling Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, STOR) is designed to help you combine two successful careers. A personal academic career counsellor will help you adjust your learning pace, timetable and examination schedule to your training sessions and competitions where possible. You will also make arrangements on the number of required credits.

Possibility of exemption binding study advice (BSA)

While elite sports students are required to complete the full curriculum, you may be exempted from the binding study advice (BSA) under certain conditions.

Elite Sports Student Grant

  • Students with an elite sports student status are also eligible for financial compensation: the elite sports student grant, a joint scheme offered by Hanze UAS and the University of Groningen.
  • This financial contribution amounts to € 2,000 per academic year, and the maximum number of times this grant is awarded per student is equal to the number of nominal academic years.


Ilse Kolkman

Ilse Kolkman

Rower Ilse Kolkman is successfully combining her Pre-Master's in Psychology with a professional athletic career.

Ilse Kolkman

'I've been living and studying in Groningen since 2015. I originally started on a Bachelor's in Educational Sciences, which I followed up with a Pre-Master's in Psychology in preparation for my Master's in Developmental Psychology next year. I chose the University of Groningen because I liked the city. Groningen feels a bit like a town, and I felt at home right away. I started rowing at the Aegir Student Rowing Association in my first year, and kept getting better. I've taken part in two U23 World Championships, and managed to win a silver medal in 2018.

They regularly check whether I'm still managing to combine my studies with the elite sports student programme, and help me make adjustments where necessary. The programme also provides video recordings of lectures so I can follow courses when I'm in Amsterdam or abroad for training or competitions. I can even postpone deadlines and examinations or do them remotely if I really need to. Finally, RUG also offers financial support. For example, I get a free ACLO pass every year for my weight training. Students with an elite sports student status are also reimbursed for exercise tests and functional and physical screenings. Certain athletic achievements also qualify you for a grant.

Ilse Kolkman
Ilse Kolkman

I haven't had any problems combining sports with my studies so far: I officially completed my Bachelor's and finished my Pre-Master's within a year. I row alone a lot, so I'm pretty flexible in terms of when I train; I can generally schedule training sessions around my studies. I also have training sessions in larger boats in Amsterdam with girls from other cities. They're usually scheduled for the weekend, though, so that's generally not a problem. I expect the Master's will be a bit more difficult. I'll be spending a lot of time on my work placement. Still, it doesn't really matter if that means my studies take a bit longer. I'm only 22 now, and I already finished my Bachelor's in three years thanks to the elite sports student programme.'

Sanneke de Neeling

Sanneke de Neeling

Professional ice skater Sanneke de Neeling combines her daily training sessions in Thialf arena with her Life Science and Technology studies. She's certainly doing well: in addition to taking part in the World Sprint Speed Skating and Single Distances Speed Skating Championships last year, she was also issued a positive binding enrolment decision.

Sanneke de Neeling
Sanneke de Neeling

'I've been a professional speed skater for over five years now. I live in Heerenveen because it's close to the Thialf arena where I train every day. I'm originally from Rotterdam, though. I'm studying Life Science and Technology and majoring in Biomedical Engineering. The University of Groningen was the most logical option because I wanted to combine studying and skating. It's near Thialf, and they offered the programme I wanted. I'd also heard good things about their elite sports student programme from my team mates.

I get extra leave days and they let me reschedule some examinations and resits and catch up on practicals, which really helps me combine my studies with skating. It all gets a bit stressful at times, but I feel great once I've passed everything.

This year, I'm hoping to take part in the European and World Speed Skating Championships in Single Distances. I dream of taking part in the Olympics one day. In terms of my career, I'd like to work in the biotech sector. I would love to design prostheses.'

Sofie Lövdal

Sofie Lövdal

Sofie Lövdal is an athlete from Finland, competing on the 1500m and 3000m steeplechase. She trains with the professional team Team 4 Mijl in Groningen and is currently in the second year of her Master’s degree in Computing Science. She is currently working on the last part of her thesis.

‘I was on exchange in Groningen during my bachelor and ended up staying. An essential requirement for me in choosing a study location overall was the possibility to do top sports. The sports centre at the Zernike Campus has good facilities. The Elite Sports Student Programme of the University of Groningen offers solutions in case my sports schedule turns out to be incompatible with the university schedule. Completing a degree without this would be considerably more difficult, since things like competitions and training camps have fixed schedules. It was quite demanding in the beginning but after a while I found a balance between my study and sports. I made a study plan that fits my needs, covering four years for my Bachelor’s degree and two and a half for my Master’s.

The last two years I have won a bronze medal during the National Championships in the 3000m steeplechase. My next goal in athletics is qualifying for the European Championships in 2022. To this end I have chosen to stay in Groningen and continue working with Team 4 Mijl. The Olympics in 2021 is not necessarily a realistic goal for me so the next season will mainly be a stepping stone towards 2022. To this end I want to improve my personal bests, refine my bronze medal in the nationals and beat some Swedes in the annual national meet between Finland and Sweden.

After I graduate, ‘regular’ worklife will come on second place as long as I am an athlete. Once I stop I consider myself having excellent opportunities career wise with my degree of Computing Science from the University of Groningen. I will probably translate what drives me in sports into my future professional career, aiming for a job where I can give my very best. I have really enjoyed the thesis work and other research related parts of my study, so I might also be interested in doing a PhD. Right now, the precise plans are yet to be determined.’

Sofie Lövdal
Sofie Lövdal

Do I qualify?

Want to find out whether you qualify for the elite sports student programme and/or the grant? Find the University of Groningen and Hanze UAS Qualification List below. The list provides an overview of the requirements for each individual sport. However, our elite sports student programme coordinator may apply these criteria more leniently in practice.

Chosen a degree programme? Time to check whether your athletic programme and academic schedule match up. To start exploring the possibilities (and impossibilities), you can make an appointment with our elite sports student programme coordinator Cees Reitsma at Cees can tell you everything there is to know about our programme, the elite sports student grant and facilities for athletes. Once you have chosen a degree programme at the University of Groningen, you will be subject to the same enrolment requirements as our regular students.

Free ACLO card and gym membership

The ACLO is the overarching sports association for Hanze UAS and University of Groningen students.

  • Students with an elite sports student status can apply for a free ACLO card and gym membership.
  • You will receive support with a weight training programme.
  • You can take specialised courses in the area of sports psychology, taping and bandaging.

Extra facilities and activities for athletes

Our athletes can make use of high-end facilities such as test and strength measurements, movement analysis, performance diagnosis and team sport game plan analysis at the SportsFieldLab.

The UG also organises regular activities for our athletes. Our knowledge sessions offer an opportunity to meet other athletes, exchange experiences and learn all about relevant issues such as interacting with the press and promoting yourself on social media.

Athletes can also team up with other athletes to share your unique stories during a college tour, or hold sports clinics for staff and students.


Olympic wall

Students and employees who combine their studies or employment with participation in the Olympic Games will be given a place of honour on the Zernike Campus. The Olympic wall was introduced in the sports centre of the University of Groningen and the Hanze University in 2012.


We work with coaches, trainers, sports associations and various other partners, including Topsport NOORD, NOC*NSF, Hanze UAS and the Research Group Applied Sports Science.

Ask our elite sports students

Do you want to know what it is like to combine elite sports with a study at the University of Groningen? Ask our elite sports students! They answer all your questions and share their personal experiences. Send an email with your questions, the sport you practice and possibly the study you have chosen to Cees Reitsma, university advisor elite sports. We then match you to an elite sports student, preferably a student who does your specified study and/or practices the same sport.

Last modified:18 February 2021 4.43 p.m.
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