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The Dutch Education System

Updated: Feb 11, 2019


Higher education in the Netherlands is organised around a three-cycle degree system, consisting of bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees. Two types of higher education programs are offered: research-oriented degree programs offered primarily by research universities, and professional higher education programs offered primarily by universities of applied sciences.


Globally, the United States, United Kingdom, China, Japan and Germany are fuelling growth in the Netherlands by providing thousands of jobs to the Netherlands' highly capable workforce. Our world-class transportation and communications infrastructure, innovative outlook and competitive fiscal climate are also helping to attract investments from some of the biggest names in business.



Higher education in the Netherlands is offered at two types of institutions: research universities and universities of applied sciences. Research universities include general universities, universities specializing in engineering and agriculture, and the Open University. Universities of applied sciences include general institutions as well as institutions specializing in a specific field such as agriculture, fine and performing arts or teacher training.


Whereas research universities are primarily responsible for offering research-oriented programmes, universities of applied sciences are primarily responsible for offering programmes of higher professional education, which prepare students for specific professions. These tend to be more practice oriented than programmes offered by research universities.


In this binary, three-cycle system, bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees are awarded. Short-cycle higher education leading to the associate degree is offered by universities of applied sciences. Degree programs and periods of study are quantified in terms of the ECTS credit system.


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