Higher education in the Netherlands: types of universities

Higher education in the Netherlands: types of universities

Universities in the Netherlands are known all over the world for their high level of teaching, research activities, and academic rating. According to QS Ranking, 12 Dutch higher education institutions are in the world’s top 300, while 2 of them occupy positions in the top hundred. To date, there are about 2,100 programs in the Netherlands (in all universities) for international students, which are taught in English. This country offers the largest number of training courses in English in comparison with other countries of continental Europe. The study load is quite challenging, so most students require algebra homework help to improve their grades.

International students can enter universities in the Netherlands and study hereafter the 11th grade or after receiving a bachelor’s degree from a foreign university.

Higher education in the Netherlands is known for its binary system. This means that students can choose to study at one of two types of universities, two types of training:

  • Research Universities;
  • Universities of Applied Sciences;

The main difference is in the two educational systems, in the approach to teaching and opportunities for scientific and research activities, and of course in the offered courses. Scientific universities focus on a research approach in teaching academic subjects and preparing for professional activity.

The University of Applied Sciences provides professional training for students for further careers.

There is also a third type of university that offers programs directly for international students – the institute of international education. But it is less popular among international students, as it offers more narrowly focused courses.

Let’s take a closer look at the two main types of universities that international students are interested in.


Education in these types of educational institutions is focused on a scientific approach to the study of academic subjects. Many programs also include professional training to prepare future graduates for practical work. Scientific universities in the Netherlands are different in size. From 6000 to 30,000 students. Today, there are about 240,000 students in research universities.

Stages of study at research universities in the Netherlands:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA): duration of the program is 3 years;

  • Bachelor of Sciences – BSc): duration of the program is 3 years;

  • Master of Arts – MA): the duration of training is 1-2 years;

  • Master of Sciences (MSc): the duration of training is 1-2 years;

  • Doctorate in Engineering Sciences – PDEng): 2 years;

  • PhD-Doctoral program: 4 years;

List of research universities that offer academic programs and courses in English:

Applications for admission to scientific universities in the Netherlands after the 11th grade of secondary school are not accepted! Scientific universities do not recognize the certificate as a full secondary education. There are no exceptions, even for the most intelligent students!

Delft University of Technology

Eindhoven University of Technology

Erasmus University Rotterdam

Leiden University

Maastricht University

Nyenrode Business Universiteit

Open University

Radboud University Nijmegen

The Protestant Theological University

TIAS School for Business and Society

Tilburg University

University of Amsterdam

University of Groningen

University of Humanistic Studies

University of Twente

Utrecht University

VU University Amsterdam

Wageningen University and Research Centre

The educational agencies enroll students, graduates of the 11th grade in research universities only after training programs in international centers: Holland International Center and ONCAMPUS Amsterdam.

What international students need to know about admission to research universities in the Netherlands:

  • The minimum age for admission to the bachelor’s program is 18 years;
  • Foreign school graduates need to complete an additional year of preparation for admission to the first year, this is due to the discrepancy in the duration of secondary education;
  • Graduates of foreign universities can enroll directly in Dutch universities for master’s degree programs, the main requirement is a high level of English;
  • To enroll in a bachelor’s or master’s degree program, some universities conduct additional testing or interviews with applicants;


The main purpose of studying at universities of applied sciences is to prepare a student for professional activity, training is focused on the practical application of knowledge in life. Most universities include an internship in the program, which allows students to use their knowledge in practice. Universities of applied sciences have between 20,000 and 40,000 students. Today, about 416,000 students study at universities of applied sciences throughout the Netherlands.

Higher education in the Netherlands: types of universities

Stages of study at the Universities of Applied Sciences of the Netherlands:

  • Bachelor (B): duration of study is 4 years;
  • Master (M): the duration of training is 1-2 years;

List of Universities of Applied sciences that offer Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in English:

  • Amsterdam School of the Arts
  • Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
  • ArtEZ Institute of the Arts
  • Avans Hogeschool, University of Applied Sciences
  • Azusa Theological Seminary
  • Business School Netherlands
  • Business School Notenboom
  • Christelijke Hogeschool Ede
  • Christian University of Applied Sciences
  • Codarts, University for the Arts
  • Design Academy Eindhoven
  • Driestar Hogeschool
  • EuroPort Business School
  • Fontys University of Applied Sciences
  • Gerrit Rietveld Academie
  • HAN University of Applied Sciences
  • Hanze University Groningen, University of Applied Sciences
  • HAS Den Bosch University of Applied Sciences
  • Hogeschool Edith Stein
  • HKU University of the Arts Utrecht
  • HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht
  • HZ University of Applied Sciences
  • Hotelschool The Hague
  • Inholland University of Applied Sciences
  • Katholieke Pabo Zwolle, Teacher Training Institute
  • New Business School Amsterdam
  • NHL University of Applied Sciences
  • NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences
  • Rotterdam University, University of Applied Sciences
  • Saxion University of Applied Sciences
  • STC-Group
  • Stenden University of Applied Sciences
  • The Hague University of Applied Sciences
  • TIO University of Applied Sciences
  • University of Applied Sciences Leiden
  • University of the Arts, The Hague
  • Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences
  • Vilentum University of Applied Sciences
  • Webster University, University of Applied Sciences
  • Windesheim University of Applied Sciences
  • Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences
  • Zuyd University of Applied Sciences

What international students need to know about admission to universities of applied sciences:

  • The minimum age for admission to the first year is 17 years. You should also take into account the requirements of the university for the age of applicants;
  • For admission to the first year of university, in most cases, there is no need to take a preparatory course for admission to the university, but there are universities where the preparatory course is an integral part of training for international students;
  • Students, graduates of foreign universities can directly enroll in the master’s program, provided they have a high level of English;
  • The duration of the bachelor’s degree program is 4 years, and cannot be shortened;


Preparatory programs: Studying in the Netherlands on such programs is mainly designed for those who want to improve English or mathematics. Depending on the level of training of the student, the duration of the programs can be from 1 to 12 months. Preparatory programs at some universities are the main part of the higher education program, especially for foreign students.

Bachelor’s degree: the program is designed for 3 years of study. A graduate receives a bachelor’s degree after 3 years of study, a doctoral diploma, similar to an international master’s diploma, students receive under the condition of studying under the “indivisible master’s program”, where the bachelor’s and master’s degrees are combined into a single 5-year program. At universities of applied sciences, the duration of bachelor’s degree programs is 4 years.

Master’s degree: Programs are offered by universities, international institutes, less often by professional schools. Studying in the Netherlands on such a program is designed for 1-2 years. Upon completion of the program, an international diploma is issued, recognized in any country of the world.

MBA: Programs are distinguished by a variety of choices: full, combined with distance learning, according to the American or European model. Depending on the type of program, the training lasts from 10 months to 2 years or more. Some universities require mandatory work experience to enroll in an MBA program.

Postgraduate programs: Education in the Netherlands requires the availability of such programs in higher educational institutions of all types. They are designed for those who want to improve their skills, respectively, depending on the initial level of training of the listener, they can last from 1 to 4 years.