close

Higher education in the Netherlands

main image

Students who have successfully completed the HAVO or VWO can do a Bachelor’s degree at either a research university, a university of applied sciences or other higher education institutes.

Research universities in the Netherlands (Universiteiten)

Research universities in the Netherlands focus on the independent practice of research-oriented education in an academic or professional setting. In total, 14 research universities and 8 academic medical centres enrol more than 200.000 students and offer three-year Bachelor's programmes and one or two-year Master's programmes. At a research university in the Netherlands, you can get a WO degree.

WO degree (Research Bachelor’s degree)

The WO is a three-year Bachelor’s degree at a research university (universiteit), where a student can gain a degree in arts, science or law. To start a WO, a student must have a VWO high school qualification, unless they have already completed the first year of an HBO degree. Students complete the WO around the age of 21. 

Universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands (Hogescholen)

In universities of applied sciences (hogescholen), students are trained for the independent practice of science. All hogescholen have a more practical orientation and thus, Bachelor's programmes specialising in specific areas last for four years. It should be underlined that after completing a four-year Bachelor's programme, students can apply for a second Bachelor's or even for a Master's programme in (almost) every university. However, a switch programme (one year) may be required. At a university of applied sciences in the Netherlands, you can get an HBO degree.

HBO degree (Applied Bachelor’s degree)

The HBO is a four-year Bachelor’s degree at a university of applied sciences (hogeschool), where a student can gain a degree in fields such as design, engineering, IT, teaching and more. The HBO combines both theoretical and practical knowledge via group work and internships. Students complete the HBO around the age of 21. 

Postgraduate education in the Netherlands

Students who have completed a Bachelor’s degree (either HBO or WO) can embark on postgraduate education such as a Master’s degree or doctoral degree.

Master’s degree

Master's programmes last between one-to-three years, covering an area of theoretical or applied knowledge.

PhD or Doctorate

PhDs are four-year doctorate programmes covering a specific field of theoretical knowledge involving research and writing a thesis.

Institutes for International Education (IE)

Institutes for International Education (IE) offer a variety of specialised programmes, including short courses, Master’s programmes and PhD programmes. Most of the IE institutes are part of a research university. Due to their international nature, IE institutes may well suit the needs of expats.

Private schools and other higher education institutions

There are a number of private universities and other higher education institutions in the Netherlands, such as university colleges and universities of the arts.

  • Most Dutch business schools offer a wide variety of part-time and full-time (international) Master’s degree programmes.
  • University colleges in the Netherlands offer full-time Bachelor programmes in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Dutch university colleges have an international and intercultural focus, making them perfect for expats.
  • The universities of the arts in the Netherlands offer an extensive range of Bachelor’s, Master’s and research degrees in fine arts, music, dance, theatre, film and television and more.

Dutch universities & funding

In terms of funding, all Dutch universities and institutions belong to one of the two following categories:

  • Government-funded institutions are legally protected and financially supported by the Dutch government and thus, allowed to offer officially recognised degrees.
  • Government-approved institutions are not funded by the Dutch government but preserve the right to offer degrees that are officially recognised.

Read also

  • Research universities

    Research universities

    A list of Dutch research universities with English Bachelor's and Master's programmes for potential expat students.
    read more
  • Private universities

    Private universities

    Some of the most popular and expat-friendly private universities and business schools in the Netherlands.
    read more
  • Tuition fees & Studying costs

    Tuition fees & Studying costs

    Want to study in the Netherlands? Learn about tuition fees and costs for EU and non-EU students at Dutch universities and higher education institutions.
    read more
  • Scholarships

    Scholarships

    There are many Dutch and international scholarships available for expat students in the Netherlands. Here's a list of the most common scholarship programmes.
    read more
  • MBA programs

    MBA programs

    Master of Business Administration programs offered by universities and business schools in the Netherlands and nearby countries.
    read more
  • Hogescholen - Universities of applied sciences

    Hogescholen - Universities of applied sciences

    The most popular universities of applied sciences (Hogescholen) in the Netherlands for expats.
    read more
  • Universities of the Arts

    Universities of the Arts

    Are you a natural born artist and thinking of studying in the Netherlands? Here's a list of the most popular Dutch universities of arts for expats.
    read more
  • University colleges

    University colleges

    Take a look at some of the most popular university colleges in the Netherlands for expats.
    read more
  • Official issues

    Official issues

    There are some issues prospective students need to deal with e.g. permits, visas, citizenship, passport, registration, BSN, DigiD, banking and more.
    read more
  • Student housing

    Student housing

    How does student housing in the Netherlands work? What are your options as an expat? How can you find suitable student accommodation? Read on and find out!
    read more
  • The orientation year residence permit for expat graduates

    The orientation year residence permit for expat graduates

    A guide to the Dutch orientation year residence permit for graduates and highly educated expats in the Netherlands including requirements and institutions.
    read more
  • Working in the Netherlands

    Working in the Netherlands

    Graduating and looking for a job? Here's what you need to know about working in the Netherlands.
    read more