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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice


7.2.First-cycle programmes


Last update: 27 November 2023

Branches of Study

In the Netherlands bachelor studies in higher education are divided into different categories. According to the CROHO register (only available in Dutch), the categories are:

  • Economics
  • Healthcare
  • Behavior and society
  • Agriculture and natural environment
  • Education
  • Law (school)
  • Language and Culture
  • Technology

Number of teaching hours in higher professional education and universities

There are no legal regulations for the number of teaching hours in higher education. Universities and institutions for higher professional education can decide for themselves how they organize teaching. There are some agreements made on the course load. The course load for an academic year is 60 ECTS (this is equivalent to 1680 hours of study).

The number of teaching hours varies per training and year of study. For the first year of the bachelor it is agreed that the number of contact hours is at least 12 hours per week in 2015. These agreements were made in the context of the performance agreements for higher education.

The study load for each course is expressed in credits (ECTS). The Education and Examination Regulations (OER) of the course mentions the agreements on this subject. For each program of an institution a teaching and examination regulations (OER) is established by the board of the institution.

Below you can find an overview of the course load in higher education.

Program/Study                Duration                       Course load

Bachelor HBO                   4 years                           240 ECTS

Bachelor University           3 years                          180 ECTS

Master HBO/University     at least 1 year                at least 60 ECTS

In 2002 the bachelor-master system was introduced in higher education. The course load for a master's degree is at least four years, including the bachelor study of three years. For studies in technology and dental surgery the course load is five years, and the course load to become a  veterinarian, doctor, or pharmacist takes six years (in total, including a master).

Higher professional education and universities both offer full-time, part-time and dual training.


The Dutch Qualifications Framework (NLQF) is a way of describing Dutch qualification levels.  It is a systematic organisation of all existing qualification levels in The Netherlands, from Level 1 basic education to the Master’s degree at level 7 and a Doctorate's degree at level 8. Qualifications are classified in NLQF levels and are given a level indication. The framework consists of an Entry Level followed by 8 levels, Level 1 being the least complex and Level 8 the most complex. A bachelor study is level 6, and a master is level 7. For more information on NLQF, please click here.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for higher education

Students with a diploma in MBO level 4 can follow higher professional education (HBO). Students with a VWO diploma or a HBO foundation course (propedeuse) can follow training at an university. 

If a student is 21 years or older and does not have the right preparatory training, he/she can make an entrance examination at a university or institution for higher professional education to be still admitted.

Some courses impose additional requirements on a diploma: for example a certain profile or specific subjects within that profile.

Students must register for the course of their choice on the Studielink website by 1 May at the latest. They will then be entitled to sit the study choice test, which assesses their suitability for the course. First-time students have until 1 September to change their choice of course. The aim of the test is to reduce course dropout and switching of courses, so that students graduate faster. HBO institutions and universities also have a role to play, for example, by responding more adequately to the needs of both students and the job market.

Additional admission requirements

Some courses have next to the degree requirements additional admission requirements. For example, the requirement that a certain profile ispart of the examination of the previous study of the student. The requirements can be found in the ‘Control application and admission Higher Education’ (only available in Dutch). The institutions for higher professional education or universities provide information on the education requirements.

Some courses in higher professional education may impose additional requirements for which the student must do an audition or an admission test.

Exemption from admission requirements in higher education

 A student can receive exemptions for admission to institutions for higher education and universities when he / she:

  • has a bachelor's or master's degree;
  • has successfully completed a foundation year (propedeuse) examination in higher education;
  • follows university or higher education in an European country that has an educational agreement with the Netherlands;
  • has a foreign degree that is equivalent to the required degree.
  • has made an admission test showing that he / she has sufficient knowledge to be able to follow the course.

A student must apply for the exemption at the institution where he / she wants to follow the training.

Admission without the proper qualifications (colloquium doctum)

An institution in higher education may also allow someone to follow a course after passing a special entrance examination (‘colloquium doctum’) which tests their knowledge at the appropriate level. This entrance examination may only be taken by those aged 21 or over. This lower age limit may be waived in the case of courses in the fine and performing arts. In exceptional cases, younger students may also take a special entrance examination.

Sometimes a student does not have to be 21 years or older for  the entrance examination. This is the case in schools for art. The board of the institution for higher education determines whether a student may participate in the entrance examinations.

The requirements for the entrance examination are mentioned in the education and examination regulations (OER) of a course.

Admission requirements: with a HBO foundation course (propedeuse) to the university

From school year 2013/2014 universities may ask admissions to students with a HBO foundation course. This is to reduce the drop of these students.

Admission requirements PABO (Primary School Teacher Training Colleges)

From the academic year 2015-2016 there are requirements to enter teacher training (Primary School Teacher Training). The entrance requirements account for some school subjects. If the diploma of a prospective student does not meet the requirements of these subjects, the submitter must make an entrance exam.


Anyone who has the right qualifications, has the right to enter higher education. But in some cases, there will be a selection. This selection should ensure that the right student end up in the right place.

Selection takes place in three groups of courses:

  • Courses with a fixed number of places (numerus fixus)

Some programs pre-determine the number of students they can admit. If the courses are so popular that many students sign in, selection will take place.

  • Small and intensive training

Some programs have such special qualities that selection is necessary. One example of this are the university colleges.

  • Programs with additional requirements

For some programs special skills, knowledge or talent is required, such as art schools. In this case there are additional requirements for the students.

HBO institutions and universities have a central admissions system. For courses subject to a quota (‘numerus fixus’), there is also a weighted draw for places followed by selection by the institutions themselves. Prospective students must apply to the Central Applications and Placement Office (CBAP). This is an department of DUO, who is responsible for this procedure. Where no restrictions on numbers apply, students are free to enroll on whichever course and at whichever university they wish.

DUO announces each year which for which courses in higher education there is a draw. The final subscription date for a course with a limited enrollment is May 15th. But with registration until May 1, the student retains his/her right to admission to other courses in higher education. Students can then apply for another study if he / she failed to get a place.

The selection procedure for places at universities and HBO institutions is as follows:

  • Prospective students with an average grade of 8 or higher in their school-leaving examination are automatically awarded a place on the course of their choice.
  • Those not entitled to direct admission are allocated places by means of a weighted draw. The higher a prospective student’s average school-leaving examination grade, the higher their chances of gaining admission via the draw. Applicants may take part in no more than three draws per course.
  • Decentralised selection: places may be awarded by the educational institutions themselves. They may apply their own selection criteria, provided these are not linked to school-leaving examination results. Decentralised selection is optional, and if institutions decide not to opt for it, the draw system automatically applies instead. It is up to the individual educational institution to decide how often a candidate may apply through the decentralised system.

The draw is conducted by DUO. The decentralized selection is done by the universities themselves.

Click here for an temporary overview of the HBO programs with drawing lots for 2016-2017.

Click here for an temporary overview of the university programs with drawing lots for 2016-2017.

The main draw procedure with limited enrollment courses such as medicine disappears. These courses will select students themselves. This ensures a better match between students and programs. The main draw will be abolished with effect from the academic year 2017-2018. For more information see 'Reforms in Higher Education'. (only available in Dutch) gives central information from the government for students and prospective students. The website provides information on issues such as cluster selection, study choice, money matters, housing and graduation.


The government stipulates the framework within which institutions operate but the administration of each institution is ultimately responsible for developing courses and the curriculum within this framework. The choices made with regard to the syllabus and examinations are set out in the teaching and examination regulations (of each institution).

Many of the programs in higher education are given in the Dutch language. In a few cases, parts of the training or even the entire education program is in English. Various language courses are also taught in the language of the program (for example speaking Spanish in a Spanish course). Broad and narrow bachelor studies

There are two types of bachelor’s degree course in the Netherlands: broad and narrow. Narrow courses target a specific subject area. A broad bachelor’s degree is multidisciplinary (i.e. it contains elements from several fields of study).

The broad bachelor came into force from September 1, 2013. This law enables that the institution can experiment with a broad bachelor, up to five years, arising from combining two or more existing programs. Broad bachelors are designed to students who still do not know which direction they want to go, so that they can follow a broad bachelor that consists of a combination of several bachelors. Students choose a main subject (major) and a number of optional subsidiary subjects (minors). There are no special regulations governing the major-minor system. Some institutions offer both broad and narrow bachelor’s courses, but an increasing number are opting for the broad variant.

Teaching Methods

Higher education has a wide range of teaching methods. Institutions for higher professional education and universities may choose their teaching method themselves. Examples of these teaching methods are lectures and seminars. Universities thus decide upon the content and the way they want to teach. Within the cadres of the universities’ expectations, teachers furthermore also enjoy some freedom in their teaching methods. 

The requirements which teachers in higher education should fulfill differ per educational institution. These requirements furthermore depend on the type of work a teacher does. The institutions for higher professional education or universities can share information on these requirements for teachers and may instruct them about the way education is taught at a specific university.

In addition, more attention will be given to open and online education, including Massive Open Online Courses. For more information, please click here for a statement of the Cabinet on digitalization in higher education.

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science makes every year from 2015 – 2018 financial support available for supporting open and online higher education in the Netherlands. By stimulating open and online higher education, the measure aims at contributing to the quality, accessibility and effectiveness of higher education and an increase in study success. Within this measure, a budget of 800.000 euros has been made available for projects from Dutch institutions for higher education. SURF takes care of coordinating the projects, for exchange of knowledge and dissemination, and initiates short (research)projects on numerous projects concerning open and online education.

Progression of Students 

Institutions in higher education enjoy a great amount of autonomy. Institutions can for example decide themselves in what way the progress of a student is measured.

At the end of their first year – the propaedeutic year – students in higher education following bachelor’s programmes are advised as to whether they should continue with their course or switch to another. At universities, the propaedeutic year serves as a means of orientating, referring and selecting students. Universities are free to decide whether to hold propaedeutic examinations.

In higher education, institutions can also choose to use a binding study advice (BSA). BSA is a decision from the university about the progress of a student in his or her study. Every students receives a BSA at the end of the first year of the study. When a university issues a negative study advice, the student has to stop the study. This may occur when a student lacks too many study points and when there have been no special circumstances.

When a student underperforms in its first year, he or she will receive a binding negative study advice. The student is not allowed to continue the study. Universities may experiment with negative study advices after the propaedeutic year up to the academic year 2018-2019.

  • Higher education institutions may issue a negative study advice in a student’s second year
  • In the third year of a study, an institution for higher professional education may only issue a partial negative binding advice.
  • In a student’s last year, a higher education institution cannot issue a negative binding study advice anymore. For institutions for higher professional education, this concerns the fourth year of the study. For universities, this applies to the third year of studying.

Institutions which participate in the experiment may decide themselves how to apply the new rules. They may, for example, send students away or exclude them from following certain courses. A limited number of institutions participate in the experiment.

The Education – and Examination Regulation (OER) of higher education institutions contains the rules on retaking courses for students. These rules may differ per institution.

Number of graduated students with a bachelor’s degree in higher professional education (number x 1000)

  Education Technology Healthcare Economics Behavior and society Language and Culture Agriculture and natural environment Cross-Sectoral
2010 9.8 10.2 6.6 21.3 9.7 2.9 1.6 0.0
2011 9.8 9.9 6.7 20.8 10.0 3.0 1.4 0.0
2012 10.1 10.6 6.8 22.5 10.7 3.0 1.5 0.0
2013 8.8 9.8 6.7 19.9 9.8 2.9 1.4 0.0
2014 8.6 10.0 7.1 20.7 10.2 2.9 1.6 0.0

Source: Education in Numbers (only available in Dutch)

Number of graduated students with a bachelor’s degree at an university (number x 1000)

  Nature Technology Healthcare Economics Law Behavior and Society Language and Culture Agriculture and natural environment Cross-Sectoral
2010 2.0 2.6 3.2 4.1 3.6 6.6 4.2 0.6 0.6
2011 2.4 3.4 3.6 4.7 3.8 7.0 4.6 0.6 0.6
2012 2.6 4.1 4.4 5.1 4.2 8.0 5.2 0.9 0.8
2013 2.4 3.6 4.5 5.1 3.7 7.7 4.4 0.8 0.9
2014 2.5 3.5 4.5 5.3 3.4 7.7 4.1 0.8 1.0

Source: Education in Numbers (only available in Dutch).


Close contacts between HBO institutions and the labour market are extremely important. Such contacts occur at both national and individual course level. Each year a national survey of the employment position of HBO graduates, known as the HBO Monitor (only available in Dutch) is carried out by the Council for Higher Professional Education. The instrument allows institutions for higher professional education to assess the position of their graduates on the labour market and to evaluate to what extent their studies meet the requirements set by the labour market.

The universities, like the HBO institutions, monitor the position of their graduates on the labour market by means of an annual survey first held in 1998. The results are announced every year in the Universities Monitor (only available in Dutch). The study is carried out by means of a written survey among students graduated in the preceding academic year. The survey thus takes place roughly one and a half year after graduation. All sectors, except for the  sector education (teacher education at university) are represented in the Monitor.

Student Assessment

Institutions may choose themselves in what way they evaluate students. Each unit of study (e.g. module) often concludes with an interim examination (‘tentamen’) (summative) testing students’ knowledge, understanding and skills. Institutions determine the content and design of these examinations themselves. Institutions also have the possibility to let students write a paper or an oral exam at the end of a module.

Individual study results of students are often shown on the overview of a student’s study progress.

When graduating for a bachelor study at an university, a student conducts academic research. The form of this research depends on the study chosen and may for example be a literature research or study carried out at an organization. The research may also be part of a research program at the university itself. The student has to write a thesis about the research done. This process also accounts for master students in academic education. In higher professional education, the student interns at a company and conducts a study for that company in order to graduate. The student has to write an internship evaluation or thesis. De internship supervisor evaluates the thesis, supervised by the Board of Examination. This Board of Examination is also responsible for exams.


In the education – and exam regulation (OER) of an institution, one can find information on the content of graduation tracks and which requirements a student should fulfill in order to receive a diploma. At all institutions, responsibility for the examinations lies with the administration. A separate examining board is set up for each study programme to conduct examinations and organise and coordinate the interim examinations. The Act contains a number of conditions regarding the procedure to be followed. The purpose of the examinations is to assess whether candidates have attained the level stipulated in the teaching and examination regulations in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills. At the end of the first year of study, there may be a propaedeutic examination. After four years the final examinations are held.

Successful candidates are awarded a certificate listing the subjects in which they were examined. Students abandoning their courses before the final examinations receive a transcript indicating how much of the course they have completed and which interim examinations (‘tentamens’) they have passed.

Sometimes, a student may receive a certificate for parts of the programme that have been successfully completed. Courses which are geared to specific occupations must include preparation for professional practice.

Graduating cum laude

Graduating cum laude means that a student of a university graduates with high scores for the exams. Students can also graduate cum laude at some of the institutions for higher professional education. The term is also used for students who obtain their PhD at an excellent level. The rules on cum laude graduates are written in an institution’s OER. The law knows no rules for graduating cum laude. There are three forms:

  • Cum laude
  • Magna cum laude
  • Summa cum laude


After completing a study in higher education, a student may receive the title bachelor, Master (followed by the area of study) or Associate degree. In case of a bachelor, only the title “bachelor” is allowed. Universities add “of Arts” or “of Science” to bachelor- and master studies. When a student achieved a PhD, he or she may use the title “Doctor”. From 1 January 2014 onwards, a student having graduated from an institution for higher professional education may also use the title of bachelor or saster of Arts or of Science. The Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organisation (NVAO) must give an institution for higher professional education permission to do this. The NVAO assesses the title by means of the reference list of international visibility (only available in Dutch). In this way, the NVAO can see whether a title corresponds with a similar study abroad. 

Overview with different titles in higher education.

Education Title
Bachelor HBO (higher professional education) Four year during bachelor (B) followed in a specific field. From 2014 it is also possible to mentioned 'of Arts' or 'of Science', after the bachelor title. This depends on the training and the assessment done by the NVAO.
Bachelor of the university Three year during bachelor of Arts (BA) or bachelor of Science (BSc), depending on the kind of education.

Above information is based on the Higher Education and Research Act.

A title is added to the name of the graduated, using the abbreviation. The following titles are placed before the name of the graduated: Dr .; bc .; ing .; drs .; mr .; ir .. All other titles are placed after the name of the graduated person.