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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Support measures for learners in higher education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.5Support measures for learners in higher education

Last update: 27 November 2023


Definition of the target group

Approximately 30% of students live with one or more disabilities. One third of this group – 10% of the total number – experience this as an obstacle to attending education and training. The Equal Treatment (Disabled and Chronically Ill People) Act applies in such cases. Under its provisions, higher education institutions must adapt their facilities effectively to accommodate disabled students, unless this incurs an unacceptable burden for the institution.

Under the Higher Education and Research Act (WHW), the accreditation process for a higher education institution must also include an assessment of whether its facilities and study programmes are sufficiently accessible to disabled students. The Act also provides that students with a declared disability must be given a reasonable opportunity of taking their examinations. It is up to the individual student to indicate that he or she has a disability in the first place. In consultation with the institution staff (a course adviser or counsellor) it will be decided what adaptations are necessary for the student and what the course of study can offer. If no agreement can be reached, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights may be consulted for a decision, mediation or advice.

Every higher education institution has teaching and examination regulations which, among other things, indicate what provision is made for disabled students in relation to examinations and assessments.

The HBO institutions and universities in their policy of making higher education accessible to disabled students. The Centre seeks to empower young people with disabilities to pursue and complete their chosen course of education or training. The Centre’s website not only gives details of relevant legislation but also provides study tips and other useful information for disabled students.

In addition, the Higher Education and Research Act provides for universities and HBO institutions to devote special attention to the guidance of students from cultural or ethnic minorities. The proportion of higher education students in this category lags significantly behind that of their non-minority Dutch peers.


Specific support measures

Students with disabilities are covered by various pieces of legislation.

Course admission

Students who meet the statutory admission requirements may not in principle be debarred from enrolling for a course of study on the grounds of their disability. Their rights are enshrined in the Equal Treatment (Disabled and Chronically Ill People) Act and the Higher Education Research Act.

Personal and mobility aids and support

Personal and mobility aids, as well as individual guidance and counselling, are provided by a range of agencies and organisations.

Teaching and exams/assessment

The teaching and examination regulations of every higher education institution must stipulate how examination and assessment is arranged for disabled students. In some cases it may be possible for the student to apply for the education delivery mode to be adapted so that a student can achieve the learning targets in question.

Extension of student finance and course duration

Students whose course progress is delayed by their disability or condition are entitled to extra student finance and an extended course duration.

Discontinuation of studies

Students whose disability or condition prevents them from continuing or completing their studies may be exempted from repaying their student loan. When advising students whether they should continue with their course or switch to another, institutions must take account of students’ disabilities.

Equal treatment legislation

Many of the facilities described above are guaranteed under the provisions of the Equal Treatment (Disabled and Chronically Ill People) Act that relate to disability and chronic illness. The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights acts as an intermediary and gives its opinion in disputes between education institutions and individual students.

A research study on studying with a disability lists various types of support measure for disabled students:

  • educational accommodations/adaptations
  • guidance, counselling and support
  • adapted accommodation and equipment
  • special arrangements for examination and assessment

More information can be found in the table below.

Categories of support

Category Facilities
Educational adaptations • Personalised study and exam plan (e.g. with regard to attendance requirement, punctuality and timetable)

• Personalised study and exam plan (e.g. with regard to attendance requirement, punctuality and timetable)

  • Availability of adapted coursework materials
  • Adapted placements (e.g. with shorter days, spread over a longer period of time)
  • Alternative curriculum content (e.g. adapted assignments)
Guidance, counselling and support • Assistance with following lectures/classes
  • Assistance with assignments from teaching staff
  • Counselling for emotional or mental health issues
  • Coaching for dyslexic students
  • Disabled students’ contact group
  • Readers, note-takers or writing assistant
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Personal assistants, e.g. through peer buddy system
  • Advice and support in contacts with, or referral to, integration agencies, e.g. UWV
  • Employment counselling and support (e.g. training to improve self-image, job interview training, career aptitude testing
  • Manual or literature about disabilities
Adapted accommodation and equipment • Adaptive technology and equipment
  • Building modification for improved access
  • Adapted lifts
  • Adapted transport within the educational institution
  • Audio textbooks
  • Rest area
  • Online helpdesk for disabled students
  • On-site helpdesk for disabled students
  • Online application for facilities
  • Paper application for facilities
  • Diagnostic testing for dyslexia
Special arrangements for examination and assessment • Extra time
  • Alternative test formats
  • Extra large print
  • Adapted assignments
  • Exam timetable adapted to individual capability
  • Special exam facilities (e.g. separate room, adapted exam regulations, e.g. for toilet visits)



Students enrolled on HBO courses have a right to guidance. The administration of the institution has a duty to pay particular attention to the guidance of cultural or ethnic minority students. The proportion of higher education students in this category lags significantly behind that of their non-minority Dutch peers.

The Expertise Centre for Ethnic Minorities in Higher Education (ECHO) (in Dutch only) supports higher education institutions in their efforts to provide better guidance and assistance for this category of students with a view to boosting the number of ethnic minority students and graduates in higher education and reducing the dropout rate. ECHO is involved in implementing diversity policy at educational and other institutions. It promotes the successful participation of cultural and ethnic minorities in society, and especially in higher education. ECHO works in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the business community and the higher education world.