Here we will explain to you how the Dutch higher education system is built and which way the Dutch went to assure the study quality.
There are two types of universities: Universiteiten (WO) and Hogescholen (HBO). The universiteiten, which are sometimes called research universities in English, are like our universities. Hogescholen are universities of applied sciences. WO is the abbreviation of ‘Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs’, HBO stands for ‘Hoger Beroepsonderwijs’.
There are three tiers of university degrees offered: Bachelor, Master and PhD. Furthermore there is the Associate Degree which is the undermost university degree and has a duration of one year at universities of applied sciences. This Associate degree is only available in few European countries and is especially aimed at people in employment who would like to continue their education. By the way, internationally this is referred to as “first cycle” (Bachelor), “second cycle” (Master), “third cycle” (PhD/doctorate) and “short cycle” (Associate).
How long does studying in Holland take? Between one and four years. During a part-time study this changes respectively. However, the number of required credits (ECTS) stays the same in part-time programmes.
|HBO Bachelor||4 years||240 ECTS||Bachelor +
abbreviation for study field
|WO Bachelor||3 years||180 ECTS||Bachelor of Arts or
Bachelor of Science
|HBO Master||1 or 2 years||60 or 120 ECTS||Master +
abbreviation for study field
|WO Master||1, 1,5 or 2 years||60, 90 or 120 ECTS||Master of Arts or
Master of Science
The Ministry for Education, Culture and Science (MinOCW) is responsible for the administrative supervision in the university field. Provided that medical or agronomic study programmes are concerned, even other ministries are involved. The study quality is assured through a system of accreditation that is run by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). The Dutch Higher Education Act states that all programmes which lead to a degree have to be evaluated according to given criteria. Study programmes that fulfil the criteria are accredited for a duration of 6 years. Only accredited programmes as well as students in accredited programmes can receive government funding. All accredited programmes are listed in the central register of study programmes (CROHO) and have a CROHO code there. Since 2011 it has been possible for universities to accredit themselves and thereby have the possibility for a simplified accreditation procedure. These programmes have to be listed in CROHO as well.
Next to the accreditation of the study programmes the ministry assigns the universities the status of “state-funded” or “state-approved”. State-approved universities do not receive state funds. But they are only allowed to offer accredited study programmes which are verified in CROHO.
An important tool for simplifying the accreditation of diplomas received abroad is the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). With its help degrees that were acquired in a different European country can be ‘translated’ and compared in other European countries. The Dutch National Qualifications Framework (NLQF) is part of the EQF and describes the learning outcomes associated with qualifications at eight different levels and is used as a common reference framework to assist in comparing national qualifications systems and their levels. The NLQF comprises nine levels overall: below the eight levels of EQF there is an additional level 1.