Education at Dutch universities

Dutch universities serve almost 250,000 students, of which roughly 160,000 follow a Bachelor's programme and 90,000 a Master's. To be accepted on to a Bachelor’s degree programme, a student must have completed a pre-university diploma (vwo) or higher education with an applied emphasis (HBO). Moreover, for some programmes, a fixed quota applies. This means that only a certain number of students will be admitted, because a programme cannot, for example, serve more students or because a course sets special requirements, such as an Honours Programme, University College or art programme.

Curricula and titles

A Bachelor's programme normally lasts three years and consists of 180 credits. After successful completion of a Bachelor’s degree, a student will be awarded the title of Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc). The student then has access to a Master's programme. In contrast to the Bachelor's programmes, these programmes differ greatly in scope: they may consist of 60 credits, but may also consist of 180 credits. On a regular Master's consisting of 60 credits the student can be awarded his title within a year, to become, for example, Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc) or Master of Laws (LLM). So-called “research masters” are less accessible, and last two years.

The third and final step in the programme pathway is reserved for fewer students: pursuing a doctorate ('promoveren' in Dutch), the doctoral pathway to being awarded the title of PhD. A PhD student carries out academic or scientific research under the guidance of a principal supervisor ('promotor' in Dutch). In the Netherlands a PhD pathway of this kind lasts three to four years.  The PhD sits at the interface between education and research, because the doctoral student is still being supervised, but is carrying out research at the same time. The Netherlands differs from many other countries in that there are PhD pathways in which the doctoral student is taken on as an employee and paid.