Dutch education system

About Dutch universities

There are two types of institutions in Holland: research universities and universities of applied sciences. The type of university you choose depends on whether you want to prepare for a specific profession or you want a broader, theory-based degree.

Research universities offer a theoretical, academic education that teaches you skills that you can apply across a range of professions. Research activity is also a key factor in global university rankings. At a research university you can expect: 

  • Research-focused courses
  • Three-year degrees
  • Theoretical learning
  • Broad focus on a specific subject
  • More academic
  • Fewer contact hours
  • More independent study

Universities of applied sciences offer a more vocational education, known as higher professional education. They are a good choice if you already know what career you are interested in. At a university of applied sciences you can expect:

  • Career-focused, professional courses
  • Three or four-year degrees (all progression degrees from the Holland International Study Centre are three years)
  • Practical
  • Relevant to specific profession
  • Work experience with most degrees (usually one year)
  • More contact hours
  • Smaller classes and group work
  • Not featured in global rankings as not focused on research

Interactive teaching and learning

The teaching style in Dutch universities is interactive and focuses on teamwork and sharing ideas. In class you will be encouraged to express your own opinion, respect other views, and are free to ask questions whenever you like. 

Practical experience

Many courses include an element of practical experience. Depending on your course, this may involve work in a laboratory, studio, or computer lab. Most universities have strong partnerships with businesses, so there are good opportunities to gain practical work experience. 

Assessment types

Assessment varies depending on your chosen degree. It may include:

  • Coursework
  • Project work
  • Presentations
  • Participation in seminars
  • Written assignments
  • Practical tasks
  • Written thesis

You will be introduced to this education style at the International Study Centre so you know exactly what to expect when you start university.

Live and work in Holland after you graduate

International students can take advantage of the Orientation Year after they graduate. This means you can apply for jobs in Holland. Find out more about working in Holland after studying

Jan Liefers

Staff member Jan Liefers

I think one of the great benefits for students at universities applied sciences is that they are prepared for an immediate start in the business world; their project work and all the other practical issues really prepare them for a career in business.

Jan Liefers, Alumni and Research, International Business School, Hanze University of Applied Sciences

Universities in Holland

Holland International Study Centre students in one of the common rooms of the university

Find out more about our university partners and your pathway to a Dutch university. 
112,000 international students


in Holland 2016-17

Discover Hanze University of Applied Sciences