Netherlands Higher Education

By | May 1, 2021

According to COUNTRYAAH, the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the EU with 16.2 million residents and has a very large group of ethnic minorities from the former colonies, i.a. from Suriname, Indonesia and Morocco. Amsterdam is the biggest city in Netherlands with a population of 741,747.

Higher education in the Netherlands

From the academic year 2002/2003, a new degree structure has been introduced in higher education with bachelor’s (3-4 years), master’s (1-2 years) and PhD degrees, because the Netherlands is a co – signatory to the Bologna Declaration.

In the Netherlands, individual educational institutions have a great deal of freedom to organize their teaching and administration. You must therefore be prepared for the fact that the content of the teaching can vary greatly from institution to institution. The teaching at the various universities is continuously evaluated to ensure the quality of the educations.

The study environment at the Flemish educational institutions is very reminiscent of Danish. There is a tradition of a close dialogue between teachers and students, and a large part of the teaching takes place as project work in groups.

The academic year runs from September to June. The year is divided into two semesters, a system that the Netherlands has switched to from the academic year 2002/2003. The credit point system is calculated in ECTS points.

You can read more about education in the Netherlands on the website Study in the Netherlands, which is administered by Nuffic (Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education).


In the Netherlands, higher education can be taken at the following types of institutions:

Non-university, profession-oriented educations take place at the University College. University education takes place at a University.

It is also possible to complete a higher education at the Open University (OU). OU can not be completely compared with the Danish system, as the system is based solely on distance learning with written assignments. There is no entry restriction and the student assesses his or her own suitability. Open education is available within both WO and HBO.

Higher education

Vocational education, Hoger Beroepsonderwijs (HBO)

It is possible to take bachelor’s and master’s degrees that are professionally oriented. There are 7 different subject areas: agriculture, engineering, health, economics, social sciences, teacher education and art. Within these 7 areas, there are a wide range of specialization options. It is common for a 6-10-month internship to be included in the education.

  • • Higher Vocational Education, HBO (professionally oriented bachelor’s degree), 4 years (240 ECTS). After passing the first annual exam (Propaedeuse) on HBO, you can be admitted to the university. It is also possible to take master’s degree programs at HBO with a duration of 1, 1½ and 2 years.

University Education, Scientific Education (WO)

  • Bachelor (Dutch), 3 years, (180 ECTS).
  • Master (Dutch), 1, 1½, 2 or 2½ years with different entry requirements. The long superstructure educations are in medicine, veterinary and pharmacy.
  • Doctoraat, research education.

For more information, ask at the institution that offers the education you want to apply for.

Application for higher education – non-university (Hogescholen) and universitære (Universiteit)

You must send your application to the central application office. There is the same admission procedure for both the college (HBO) and the universities (WO). Foreign applicants are admitted on an equal footing with Flemish applicants. You can search for Master’s degree programs in the Netherlands at Master ‘s Degrees .

Admission requirements

A Danish upper secondary school diploma generally gives access to higher education in the Netherlands. In certain subjects such as medicine, dentist and veterinarian, a number of places have been reserved for foreign applicants. If there are more applicants than places, the study places will be distributed by drawing lots among those who meet the entry requirements.

In most cases, there are requirements that you must have subjects at certain levels that are relevant to the subject you want to study, just as it works in Denmark. It is a good idea to contact the educational institution you want to apply to to find out more about admission requirements.

All students in higher education must pass an annual examination (Propaedeuse)after a maximum of 2 years of study.

Language proficiency

To be admitted to an education as a foreigner, you must meet an English language requirement (eg TOEFL). If you want to study at a higher education that takes place in Flemish, you must be able to document sufficient knowledge of Flemish. Here you can see a list of English-language education courses – under the heading Study in Holland, you will find an overview of higher education in English.

On the Stichting Internationaal Onderwijs / Foundation for International Education in the Netherlands’s website you can find information about teaching in languages ​​other than Flemish in primary school, etc.

Most higher education institutions have language courses in Flemish.

Application deadlines

There are different application deadlines. You can either find the application deadlines by applying for the education you would like to apply for, by contacting the institution you are applying to, or by applying via the central application office.

Recognition of foreign education

If you have completed a publicly recognized education abroad, you can have it assessed by the Danish Agency for Research and Education. Here you can read more about the application procedure.

Other things

You can read more about the education system, education policy and find practical info about studying in the Netherlands at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science

Netherlands Higher Education