Dutch higher education system

High-quality education in an international, open and connected society

The Netherlands is a leading knowledge economy with a strong international position and a world-class reputation. The Dutch are well-educated and enjoy a good quality of life in a safe and secure environment.

The Netherlands is known for the quality of its higher education, which delivers a highly educated workforce to industry. Dutch higher education has a binary system, which means that you can choose between two types of education:

Research universities

  • Mission: academic education, research and knowledge valorisation (assuring impact of knowledge in society). Education and research are closely interwoven.
  • All research universities offer outstanding undergraduate and graduate degree programmes at bachelor, master and PhD levels.
  • All Dutch research universities have a position in the major worldwide rankings, placing them among the top 2% in the world.
  • Large number of publications with high impact (citations).

Universities of Applied Sciences

  • Mission: higher professional education and applied research with a clear orientation towards professional practice.
  • Universities of Applied Sciences offer high-quality bachelor and master degree programmes.
  • Every study programme is based on a professional profile, established in close collaboration with employers in the respective fields.
  • Research at Universities of Applied Sciences has a high societal impact, is demand-driven and undertaken in cooperation with a variety of stakeholders: SMEs, business and the public sector.


Universities of applied sciences offer four-year programmes, leading to a bachelor's degree, which are strongly geared towards practical training. The programmes focus on specific occupations and include internships or work placements that provide students with practical work experience. Universities of applied sciences also offer an increasing number of programmes that lead to a master's degree. 


The Netherlands is characterised by an open-mindedness that welcomes the unknown and approaches challenges in a creative way. The Netherlands is now home to over 200 different nationalities, making the Netherlands a melting pot of cultures, opinions and views. To the Dutch, sharing knowledge and seeking cooperation is preferable to holding your cards close to your chest, because we believe that seeing the bigger picture works to everyone’s advantage. 

The Netherlands has a teaching and research culture in which freedom of expression, intellectual independence, curiosity and the right to question are paramount. The Netherlands has received international praise for its teaching style, which is interactive and student-centred. The teacher acts as a facilitator and guides students through the learning process. Students work in groups to analyse and solve specific problems. Entrepreneurial qualities such as creativity, self-sufficiency and personal initiative are encouraged.