Netherlands

RegionCentral Europe
CapitalAmsterdam
LanguageDutch
English
Population17,424,978
Expenditure on higher education4,48 %
Unemployment3,47 %
EuroUniversities in top 1006
EuroUniversities in top 25010
EuroUniversities in top 50013
EuroUniversities in top 100020
Students380,000
Foreigner students6,9 %
Enrollment rate in higher education85,3 %

The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands mainly located in Northwestern Europe along the North Sea coast and with several overseas territories in the Caribbean. The government wants to ensure higher education is equipped to meet the demands of the future. Institutions for higher professional education (HBO) and universities need to become more specialized. Students must choose their courses of study carefully to reduce dropout and must complete their courses in a shorter time. In addition, HBO institutions and universities must tailor their courses more effectively to students’ varying requirements and the demands of the labour market. Accessibility is another key feature of the Dutch higher education system.

Bachelor

Branches of Study

In the Netherlands bachelor studies in higher education are divided into different categories. According to the CROHO register (only available in Dutch), the categories are:

  • Economics
  • Healthcare
  • Behavior and society
  • Agriculture and natural environment
  • Education
  • Law (school)
  • Language and Culture
  • Technology

Number of teaching hours in higher professional education and universities
There are no legal regulations for the number of teaching hours in higher education. Universities and institutions for higher professional education can decide for themselves how they organize teaching. There are some agreements made on the course load. The course load for an academic year is 60 ECTS (this is equivalent to 1680 hours of study).

The number of teaching hours varies per training and year of study. For the first year of the bachelor it is agreed that the number of contact hours is at least 12 hours per week in 2015. These agreements were made in the context of the performance agreements for higher education.
The study load for each course is expressed in credits (ECTS). The Education and Examination Regulations (OER) of the course mentions the agreements on this subject. For each program of an institution a teaching and examination regulations (OER) is established by the board of the institution.

Below you can find an overview of the course load in higher education.
Program/Study                Duration                       Course load
Bachelor HBO                   4 years                           240 ECTS
Bachelor University           3 years                          180 ECTS
Master HBO/University     at least 1 year                at least 60 ECTS

In 2002 the bachelor-master system was introduced in higher education. The course load for a master’s degree is at least four years, including the bachelor study of three years. For studies in technology and dental surgery the course load is five years, and the course load to become a  veterinarian, doctor, or pharmacist takes six years (in total, including a master).
Higher professional education and universities both offer full-time, part-time and dual training.

NLQF and EQF
The Dutch Qualifications Framework (NLQF) is a way of describing Dutch qualification levels.  It is a systematic organisation of all existing qualification levels in The Netherlands, from Level 1 basic education to the Master’s degree at level 7 and a Doctorate’s degree at level 8. Qualifications are classified in NLQF levels and are given a level indication. The framework consists of an Entry Level followed by 8 levels, Level 1 being the least complex and Level 8 the most complex. A bachelor study is level 6, and a master is level 7. For more information on NLQF, please click here.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for higher education
Students with a diploma in MBO level 4 can follow higher professional education (HBO). Students with a VWO diploma or a HBO foundation course (propedeuse) can follow training at an university. 

If a student is 21 years or older and does not have the right preparatory training, he/she can make an entrance examination at a university or institution for higher professional education to be still admitted.

Some courses impose additional requirements on a diploma: for example a certain profile or specific subjects within that profile.
Students must register for the course of their choice on the Studielink website by 1 May at the latest. They will then be entitled to sit the study choice test, which assesses their suitability for the course. First-time students have until 1 September to change their choice of course. The aim of the test is to reduce course dropout and switching of courses, so that students graduate faster. HBO institutions and universities also have a role to play, for example, by responding more adequately to the needs of both students and the job market.

Additional admission requirements. Some courses have next to the degree requirements additional admission requirements. For example, the requirement that a certain profile ispart of the examination of the previous study of the student. The requirements can be found in the ‘Control application and admission Higher Education’ (only available in Dutch). The institutions for higher professional education or universities provide information on the education requirements. Some courses in higher professional education may impose additional requirements for which the student must do an audition or an admission test.

Exemption from admission requirements in higher education. A student can receive exemptions for admission to institutions for higher education and universities when he / she:

  • has a bachelor’s or master’s degree;
  • has successfully completed a foundation year (propedeuse) examination in higher education;
  • follows university or higher education in an European country that has an educational agreement with the Netherlands;
  • has a foreign degree that is equivalent to the required degree.
  • has made an admission test showing that he / she has sufficient knowledge to be able to follow the course.

A student must apply for the exemption at the institution where he / she wants to follow the training.

Admission without the proper qualifications (colloquium doctum). An institution in higher education may also allow someone to follow a course after passing a special entrance examination (‘colloquium doctum’) which tests their knowledge at the appropriate level. This entrance examination may only be taken by those aged 21 or over. This lower age limit may be waived in the case of courses in the fine and performing arts. In exceptional cases, younger students may also take a special entrance examination. Sometimes a student does not have to be 21 years or older for  the entrance examination. This is the case in schools for art. The board of the institution for higher education determines whether a student may participate in the entrance examinations. The requirements for the entrance examination are mentioned in the education and examination regulations (OER) of a course.

Admission requirements: with a HBO foundation course (propedeuse) to the university. From school year 2013/2014 universities may ask admissions to students with a HBO foundation course. This is to reduce the drop of these students.

Admission requirements PABO (Primary School Teacher Training Colleges)
From the academic year 2015-2016 there are requirements to enter teacher training (Primary School Teacher Training). The entrance requirements account for some school subjects. If the diploma of a prospective student does not meet the requirements of these subjects, the submitter must make an entrance exam.

Selection
Anyone who has the right qualifications, has the right to enter higher education. But in some cases, there will be a selection. This selection should ensure that the right student end up in the right place.

Selection takes place in three groups of courses:

  • Courses with a fixed number of places (numerus fixus)

Some programs pre-determine the number of students they can admit. If the courses are so popular that many students sign in, selection will take place.

  • Small and intensive training

Some programs have such special qualities that selection is necessary. One example of this are the university colleges.

  • Programs with additional requirements

For some programs special skills, knowledge or talent is required, such as art schools. In this case there are additional requirements for the students.

HBO institutions and universities have a central admissions system. For courses subject to a quota (‘numerus fixus’), there is also a weighted draw for places followed by selection by the institutions themselves. Prospective students must apply to the Central Applications and Placement Office (CBAP). This is an department of DUO, who is responsible for this procedure. Where no restrictions on numbers apply, students are free to enroll on whichever course and at whichever university they wish.

DUO announces each year which for which courses in higher education there is a draw. The final subscription date for a course with a limited enrollment is May 15th. But with registration until May 1, the student retains his/her right to admission to other courses in higher education. Students can then apply for another study if he / she failed to get a place.

The selection procedure for places at universities and HBO institutions is as follows:

  • Prospective students with an average grade of 8 or higher in their school-leaving examination are automatically awarded a place on the course of their choice.
  • Those not entitled to direct admission are allocated places by means of a weighted draw. The higher a prospective student’s average school-leaving examination grade, the higher their chances of gaining admission via the draw. Applicants may take part in no more than three draws per course.
  • Decentralised selection: places may be awarded by the educational institutions themselves. They may apply their own selection criteria, provided these are not linked to school-leaving examination results. Decentralised selection is optional, and if institutions decide not to opt for it, the draw system automatically applies instead. It is up to the individual educational institution to decide how often a candidate may apply through the decentralised system.

The draw is conducted by DUO. The decentralized selection is done by the universities themselves.

Click here for an temporary overview of the HBO programs with drawing lots for 2016-2017.

Click here for an temporary overview of the university programs with drawing lots for 2016-2017.

The main draw procedure with limited enrollment courses such as medicine disappears. These courses will select students themselves. This ensures a better match between students and programs. The main draw will be abolished with effect from the academic year 2017-2018.

Startstuderen.nl (only available in Dutch) gives central information from the government for students and prospective students. The website provides information on issues such as cluster selection, study choice, money matters, housing and graduation.

Curriculum

The government stipulates the framework within which institutions operate but the administration of each institution is ultimately responsible for developing courses and the curriculum within this framework. The choices made with regard to the syllabus and examinations are set out in the teaching and examination regulations (of each institution).

Many of the programs in higher education are given in the Dutch language. In a few cases, parts of the training or even the entire education program is in English. Various language courses are also taught in the language of the program (for example speaking Spanish in a Spanish course). 

Broad and narrow bachelor studies. There are two types of bachelor’s degree course in the Netherlands: broad and narrow. Narrow courses target a specific subject area. A broad bachelor’s degree is multidisciplinary (i.e. it contains elements from several fields of study). The broad bachelor came into force from September 1, 2013. This law enables that the institution can experiment with a broad bachelor, up to five years, arising from combining two or more existing programs. Broad bachelors are designed to students who still do not know which direction they want to go, so that they can follow a broad bachelor that consists of a combination of several bachelors. Students choose a main subject (major) and a number of optional subsidiary subjects (minors). There are no special regulations governing the major-minor system. Some institutions offer both broad and narrow bachelor’s courses, but an increasing number are opting for the broad variant.

Teaching Methods

Higher education has a wide range of teaching methods. Institutions for higher professional education and universities may choose their teaching method themselves. Examples of these teaching methods are lectures and seminars. Universities thus decide upon the content and the way they want to teach. Within the cadres of the universities’ expectations, teachers furthermore also enjoy some freedom in their teaching methods.  The requirements which teachers in higher education should fulfill differ per educational institution. These requirements furthermore depend on the type of work a teacher does. The institutions for higher professional education or universities can share information on these requirements for teachers and may instruct them about the way education is taught at a specific university.

In addition, more attention will be given to open and online education, including Massive Open Online Courses. For more information, please click here for a statement of the Cabinet on digitalization in higher education.

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science makes every year from 2015 – 2018 financial support available for supporting open and online higher education in the Netherlands. By stimulating open and online higher education, the measure aims at contributing to the quality, accessibility and effectiveness of higher education and an increase in study success. Within this measure, a budget of 800.000 euros has been made available for projects from Dutch institutions for higher education. SURF takes care of coordinating the projects, for exchange of knowledge and dissemination, and initiates short (research)projects on numerous projects concerning open and online education.

Progression of Students 

Institutions in higher education enjoy a great amount of autonomy. Institutions can for example decide themselves in what way the progress of a student is measured.

At the end of their first year – the propaedeutic year – students in higher education following bachelor’s programmes are advised as to whether they should continue with their course or switch to another. At universities, the propaedeutic year serves as a means of orientating, referring and selecting students. Universities are free to decide whether to hold propaedeutic examinations.

In higher education, institutions can also choose to use a binding study advice (BSA). BSA is a decision from the university about the progress of a student in his or her study. Every students receives a BSA at the end of the first year of the study. When a university issues a negative study advice, the student has to stop the study. This may occur when a student lacks too many study points and when there have been no special circumstances.
When a student underperforms in its first year, he or she will receive a binding negative study advice. The student is not allowed to continue the study. Universities may experiment with negative study advices after the propaedeutic year up to the academic year 2018-2019.

  • Higher education institutions may issue a negative study advice in a student’s second year
  • In the third year of a study, an institution for higher professional education may only issue a partial negative binding advice.
  • In a student’s last year, a higher education institution cannot issue a negative binding study advice anymore. For institutions for higher professional education, this concerns the fourth year of the study. For universities, this applies to the third year of studying.

Institutions which participate in the experiment may decide themselves how to apply the new rules. They may, for example, send students away or exclude them from following certain courses. A limited number of institutions participate in the experiment.

The Education – and Examination Regulation (OER) of higher education institutions contains the rules on retaking courses for students. These rules may differ per institution.

Number of graduated students with a bachelor’s degree in higher professional education (number x 1000). Source: Education in Numbers (only available in Dutch).
Number of graduated students with a bachelor’s degree at an university (number x 1000). Source: Education in Numbers (only available in Dutch).

Employability

Close contacts between HBO institutions and the labour market are extremely important. Such contacts occur at both national and individual course level. Each year a national survey of the employment position of HBO graduates, known as the HBO Monitor (only available in Dutch) is carried out by the Council for Higher Professional Education. The instrument allows institutions for higher professional education to assess the position of their graduates on the labour market and to evaluate to what extent their studies meet the requirements set by the labour market.

The universities, like the HBO institutions, monitor the position of their graduates on the labour market by means of an annual survey first held in 1998. The results are announced every year in the Universities Monitor (only available in Dutch). The study is carried out by means of a written survey among students graduated in the preceding academic year. The survey thus takes place roughly one and a half year after graduation. All sectors, except for the  sector education (teacher education at university) are represented in the Monitor.

Student Assessment

Institutions may choose themselves in what way they evaluate students. Each unit of study (e.g. module) often concludes with an interim examination (‘tentamen’) (summative) testing students’ knowledge, understanding and skills. Institutions determine the content and design of these examinations themselves. Institutions also have the possibility to let students write a paper or an oral exam at the end of a module. Individual study results of students are often shown on the overview of a student’s study progress.

When graduating for a bachelor study at an university, a student conducts academic research. The form of this research depends on the study chosen and may for example be a literature research or study carried out at an organization. The research may also be part of a research program at the university itself. The student has to write a thesis about the research done. This process also accounts for master students in academic education. In higher professional education, the student interns at a company and conducts a study for that company in order to graduate. The student has to write an internship evaluation or thesis. De internship supervisor evaluates the thesis, supervised by the Board of Examination. This Board of Examination is also responsible for exams.

Certification

In the education – and exam regulation (OER) of an institution, one can find information on the content of graduation tracks and which requirements a student should fulfill in order to receive a diploma. At all institutions, responsibility for the examinations lies with the administration. A separate examining board is set up for each study programme to conduct examinations and organise and coordinate the interim examinations. The Act contains a number of conditions regarding the procedure to be followed. The purpose of the examinations is to assess whether candidates have attained the level stipulated in the teaching and examination regulations in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills. At the end of the first year of study, there may be a propaedeutic examination. After four years the final examinations are held.

Successful candidates are awarded a certificate listing the subjects in which they were examined. Students abandoning their courses before the final examinations receive a transcript indicating how much of the course they have completed and which interim examinations (‘tentamens’) they have passed.

Sometimes, a student may receive a certificate for parts of the programme that have been successfully completed. Courses which are geared to specific occupations must include preparation for professional practice.

Graduating cum laude
Graduating cum laude means that a student of a university graduates with high scores for the exams. Students can also graduate cum laude at some of the institutions for higher professional education. The term is also used for students who obtain their PhD at an excellent level. The rules on cum laude graduates are written in an institution’s OER. The law knows no rules for graduating cum laude. There are three forms:

  • Cum laude
  • Magna cum laude
  • Summa cum laude

Titles
After completing a study in higher education, a student may receive the title bachelor, Master (followed by the area of study) or Associate degree. In case of a bachelor, only the title “bachelor” is allowed. Universities add “of Arts” or “of Science” to bachelor- and master studies. When a student achieved a PhD, he or she may use the title “Doctor”. From 1 January 2014 onwards, a student having graduated from an institution for higher professional education may also use the title of bachelor or saster of Arts or of Science. The Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organisation (NVAO) must give an institution for higher professional education permission to do this. The NVAO assesses the title by means of the reference list of international visibility (only available in Dutch). In this way, the NVAO can see whether a title corresponds with a similar study abroad. 

Overview with different titles in higher education. Above information is based on the Higher Education and Research Act.

A title is added to the name of the graduated, using the abbreviation. The following titles are placed before the name of the graduated: Dr .; bc .; ing .; drs .; mr .; ir .. All other titles are placed after the name of the graduated person.

Second Cycle Programmes

Branches of study

A master study is a follow-up of a bachelor study. For master studies there are the same type of categories as for bachelor studies. According to the  CROHO register (only available in Dutch), the categories are:

  • Economics
  • Healthcare
  • Behavior and society
  • Agriculture and natural environment
  • Education
  • Law (school)
  • Language and Culture
  • Technology

The course load of each master study is expressed in credits (ECTS). In the Education and Examination Regulations (OER) of each training (institution) agreements are made about the credits of the master studies.

Below you can find an overview of the course load for master studies higher education.
Program/Study                 Duration                     Course load
Master HBO/University      at least one year           at least 60 ECTS

The course load of a master in both higher professional education (HBO) as in universities is at least one year, this applies to most programs. More information on the course load is mentioned in the Higher Education and Research Act (article 7.4). Master studies are offered both in higher professional education as at universities and these institutions offer both offer full-time, part-time and dual training.

The NVAO assesses all master studies. Only approved accredited master studies may award a master’s degree. On the website of the NVAO you can find all approved master studies in higher professional education and universities (only available in Dutch).

NLQF 
The Dutch Qualifications Framework (NLQF) is a way of describing Dutch qualification levels.  It is a systematic organisation of all existing qualification levels in The Netherlands, from Level 1 basic education to the master’s degree at level 7 and a Doctorate’s degree at level 8. Qualifications are classified in NLQF levels and are given a level indication. The framework consists of an Entry Level followed by 8 levels, Level 1 being the least complex and Level 8 the most complex. A master studies is categorized in level 7. For more information on NLQF, please click here.

Post-initial Master’s degree
Within higher education there are also two other forms of master studies:

  • A post-initial master study at an university
  • A post-initial master study in higher professional education.

The new master’s degree programmes (for example in Finance, Fine Arts, Health Administration, Real Estate or Theology) do not follow on directly from a specific bachelor’s course. They are primarily designed for people who already have an HBO or university bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience. These programmes do not receive any government funding. However, students who have not yet used up all the financial support to which they are entitled, can still make use of it, on condition that the new course is accredited by the NVAO.

Admission Requirements

A bachelor’s degree awarded by an HBO institution or University will qualify its holder for admission to a master’s degree programme at either an HBO institution or a university. However, universities will usually require holders of such degrees to complete a bridging programme (also called a ‘pre-master’). Institutions for higher professional education (HBO) and universities set their own intake requirements.

There are three types of bridging programs;

  • A circuit program is followed during the HBO bachelor.
  • A bridging program if followed after a bachelor’s degree by enrolling in a WO bachelor’s degree (university).
  • In some cases, a bridge program within a bachelor study is not (or not entirely) possible. After completing a bachelor’s program a separate bridging program is necessary to eliminate deficiencies required for admission to the master study.

In order to be admitted to a post-initial master’s degree programme, applicants need not necessarily hold a bachelor’s degree in a related subject. Since the number of places is limited, candidates are individually selected. Post-initial master’s degree programmes are offered by some universities as well as by HBO institutions.

A number of master studies also have drawing of lots.

Curriculum

The government stipulates the framework within which institutions operate but the administration of each institution is ultimately responsible for developing courses and the curriculum within this framework. The choices made with regard to the syllabus and examinations are set out in the teaching and examination regulations (of each institution).

Many of the master programs in higher education are given in the Dutch language. In a few cases, parts of the training or even the entire education program is in English. Various language courses are also taught in the language of the program (for example speaking Spanish in a Spanish course).

Teaching Methods

Higher education has a wide range of teaching methods. Institutions for higher professional education and universities may choose their teaching method themselves. Examples of these teaching methods are lectures and seminars. Universities thus decide upon the content and the way they want to teach. Within the cadres of the universities’ expectations, teachers furthermore also enjoy some freedom in their teaching methods. 

The requirements which teachers in higher education should fulfill differ per educational institution. These requirements furthermore depend on the type of work a teacher does. The institutions for higher professional education or universities can share information on these requirements for teachers and may instruct them about the way education is taught at a specific university.

In addition, more attention will be given to open and online education, including Massive Open Online Courses. For more information, please click here for a statement of the Cabinet on digitalization in higher education.

Progression of Students 

Institutions in higher education enjoy a great amount of autonomy. Institutions can for example decide themselves in what way the progress of a student is measured. Many institutions give an overview of the individual results in a study progress report.

Number of graduated students with a master’s degree in HBO (number x 1000). Source: Education in numbers (only available in Dutch).  
Number of graduated students with a master’s degree at an university (number x 1000). Source: Education in numbers (only available in Dutch).

Employability

Close contacts between HBO institutions and the labour market are extremely important. Such contacts occur at both national and individual course level. Each year a national survey of the employment position of HBO graduates, known as theHBO Monitor (only available in Dutch), is carried out by the Council for Higher Professional Education. The instrument allows institutions for higher professional education to assess the position of their graduates on the labour market and to evaluate to what extent their studies meet the requirements set by the labour market.

The universities, like the HBO institutions, monitor the position of their graduates on the labour market by means of an annual survey first held in 1998. The results are announced every year in the Universities Monitor (only available in Dutch). The study is carried out by means of a written survey among students graduated in the preceding academic year. The survey thus takes place roughly one and a half year after graduation. All sectors, except for the  sector education (teacher education at university) are represented in the Monitor. Furthermore, it is at many institutions possible to do an internship during the master’s program. This prepares students on working on the labour market.

Student Assessment 

Institutions may choose themselves in what way they evaluate students. Each unit of study (e.g. module) often concludes with an interim examination (‘tentamen’) (summative) testing students’ knowledge, understanding and skills. Institutions determine the content and design of these examinations themselves. Institutions also have the possibility to let students write a paper or an oral exam at the end of a module.

Individual study results of students are often shown on the overview of a student’s study progress.

In the final phase of a university master the student does a research. It depends on the degree program and in what form it is carried out. For example, a literature study or doing research at an organisation. It can also be a part of a research at the university itself. The student must write a thesis about this research.

Certification

A master’s degree is conferred on students who pass the final examination of an HBO master’s programme. Behind the title of the master’s program the specific field can be added, in accordance with the classification of the HBO council (www.hbo-raad.nl).

A master’s degree is conferred by the institution on students who pass the final examination of a master’s course. Graduates are entitled to use the title ‘Master of Arts/Science’, abbreviated to ‘MA’ and ‘MSc’ and placed after the holder’s name.

To obtain a doctorate and be entitled to use the title ‘Dr.’, students have to complete a thesis with the support of one or more supervisors. The title of ‘Dr.’ stands before the name of the graduated. A person can also choose to use the title ‘doctor’. In this case the letter ‘D’ is placed after the name of the graduated. If a person obtained a doctorate multiple times, they may use the tile ‘dr mult.’.

Overview of titles in higher education for master programs. Source: Government (only available in Dutch)

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of doctoral studies

A doctorate or doctoral degree is the highest academic qualification that can be awarded. The accorded title is ‘doctor’. To obtain a doctorate, a candidate must have conducted doctoral research in an academic discipline and report on this research in a dissertation. A doctoral degree is often required for certain positions in higher education or research positions in government and industry.

Doctoral programmes count as level 8 programmes in the International Standard Classification of Education 2011 (ISCED 2011). Entry normally requires successful completion of a programme at ISCED level 7. The taught course component of a doctoral programme must have a duration of at least 3 years full-time. Shorter research programmes that do not lead to a doctorate are considered level 7 programmes.

Doctoral candidates must write a dissertation based on original research and independent study, conducted over a number of years under the supervision of a university professor.

Most doctoral candidates conduct their doctoral research as university employees. They are usually appointed for a period of four years.

External doctoral candidates, on the other hand, are not attached to a university. They may work at a research institution not affiliated with a university, such as a commercial laboratory or a regional hospital. They may even write their dissertation at home if they do not require special research facilities. External doctoral candidates must however have a supervisor who is a professor at a university. Doctoral degrees are only awarded by universities.

Admission requirements

Doctoral candidates must already have obtained their master’s degree. In exceptional cases the university may admit a candidate without a master’s degree to a doctoral programme.

Status of doctoral candidates

In principle, doctoral candidates in the Netherlands are university employees whose main task is to conduct research in the context of a doctoral programme. Doctoral programmes also have a taught course component for which the requirements are set individually at the beginning of the programme. Doctoral candidates are also required to do some teaching.

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) runs a number of grant schemes to finance doctoral research related to specific NWO research programmes. These grants enable universities to appoint doctoral candidates for approved project proposal.

Besides salaried doctoral positions and external doctoral candidates, new forms of doctoral programmes have developed in response to increasing internationalisation, such as PhD scholarship programmes and joint PhDs. The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) distinguishes four types of PhD candidates:

Category A: Doctoral candidates employed by a university:
1. Doctoral candidate: university employee whose contract stipulates that the employee’s primary task is to conduct research at the university or university hospital with a view to obtaining a doctoral degree. 
2. Doctoral fellow: university employee whose contract stipulates that the employee will conduct research at the university or university hospital with a view to obtaining a doctoral degree.

Category B: Other doctoral candidates:
3. Contract doctoral research associate: doctoral candidate not employed by the university where they are doing research. The candidate’s doctoral research is sponsored from another source. A contract PhD candidate differs from an external candidate as the former receives funding (e.g. a grant) in order to perform research or may work towards a doctoral qualification during their regular working hours. The main types of funding in this category are:
3a. scholarships awarded by universities or university hospitals;
3b. scholarships awarded by other organisations, e.g. the European Union, foreign universities, private parties (e.g. banks), philanthropic organisations (e.g. Fulbright);
3c. other contract funding. For instance, the doctoral candidate is sponsored by their employer or allowed to do research (partly) during work hours.
4. External doctoral candidates. These candidates do not have a job at the university where they aim to obtain their doctorate. They include retirees or employees working on their doctoral research in their free time.

Supervision arrangements

Each doctoral candidate has a supervisor who is responsible for coaching the candidate during the research phase and the writing of their dissertation. The supervisor’s status is provisional until their official appointment, shortly before the dissertation defence ceremony takes place. The supervisor plays a key role in this ceremony. Sometimes candidates also have a co-supervisor.

After the supervisor has approved the dissertation it is submitted to an assessment committee made up of at least three academics (or, in any case, an odd number), which assesses whether the dissertation satisfies the criteria for a doctorate. Within five weeks of receiving the dissertation, the chair of the committee must give its decision, with reasons, to the dean and the supervisor.

Employability

Holders of a doctorate can take up academic positions at universities. Outside academia, PhD graduates generally get the same sort of jobs as those who hold a master’s degree. Research has shown that 80% of doctoral candidates hope to build a career in research after obtaining their doctorate. However, only 20% of them will get tenure at a university, while another 10% will find research-related jobs outside academia. The remaining 70% find other jobs in the private and public sectors.

Assessment

The quality of doctoral programmes is assessed as part of overall quality monitoring in higher education. Assessment of the candidate’s progress is based on individual arrangements made by the candidate and the supervisor. The final assessment of the research and dissertation is described in 7.5.4.

Certification

A doctorate is awarded if the candidate has demonstrated that they are able to perform independent scientific or academic research. This is assessed on the basis of the research product, generally a dissertation. In the exact sciences, it may also be a technological product or a collection of previously published articles.

The candidate must have a supervisor who is prepared to confirm in writing that he/she guarantees the quality of the candidate’s work. The supervisor guides the candidate’s research and has an important say in the research topic.

After the doctoral defence ceremony, the candidate is awarded a doctorate and may bear the title of ‘doctor’ (dr.), preceding the name, or PhD following the name. In the Netherlands, someone with more than one doctorate can use the title dr.mult.

Organisational variation

A research master is primarily intended to prepare a graduate student for a career as an academic or scientific researcher. It paves the way for doctoral research. The research master takes two years, as opposed to one year for a regular postgraduate course, and is provided by research schools at the universities.

Mobility and Internationalisation

Student Mobility

The government welcomes international exchange programmes for students in higher education. By studying or gaining work experience abroad, students enhance their employment opportunities. Moreover, employees with international experience strengthen the Netherlands’ position in the world economy. International mobility also helps boost the quality of education.

Mobility options  

There are three mobility options in higher education:

  • diploma/degree mobility: students complete a course in another country and gain a diploma or degree;
  • credit mobility: students can also earn credits through study in another country, which count towards their course in the Netherlands, usually through a part-time course or placement;
  • programme-based mobility: additional funding programmes such as Erasmus enable students to study or find a placement abroad.

Many HBO institutions and universities run exchange programmes with educational institutions abroad for which they are themselves responsible. Students may complete all or part of their course abroad. The trend discernable in the Netherlands is for around 17% of university and HBO students to complete part of their course abroad (credit mobility), and around 2.3% to complete all of their course abroad (diploma/degree mobility). Each year, around 48,000 students go abroad either for work experience or to study. This figure represents nearly 24% of university students and 21% of HBO students. If students have questions they can go to Nuffic. Nuffic helps students, employees, policymakers, administrators and researchers in the higher education sector achieve their international ambitions.

Work experience placements. Apart from studying, students attending higher education institutions may also gain work experience through a placement abroad.

Teaching placement in developing countries. Students may also fulfil a teaching placement in a developing country, for example through  Edukans (only available in Dutch). This is a development organisation which aims to promote primary and secondary education in developing countries. Edukans receives a government grant.

Students studying or fulfilling a work experience placement abroad may usually take their grants and loans with them. The costs of part of the course, placement or research can often be met with a scholarship or grant from a fund. The EU has various mobility programmes through which it allocates grants each year to students who wish to fulfil a work placement or do part of their course abroad. A list of all relevant grants and scholarships can be found in Nuffic’s Grantfinder.

Erasmus+

Erasmus+ (2014-2020) integrates all the international higher education programmes included in the European Lifelong Learning programme (2007-2013) with the other mobility programmes.

Within Key Action 1 of Erasmus+, attention is devoted to the mobility of individual university and HBO students. The main activities are:

  • credit mobility, including work experience placements abroad: courses offered in partner countries on a two-way basis;
  • degree mobility: high-level joint master’s degree courses provided by universities in Europe;
  • student loan guarantee: to promote master’s degree mobility within Europe.

Erasmus Mundus is the funding programme for staff and student mobility between EU and EEA countries and the rest of the world. Various Erasmus Mundus actions (EU Lifelong Learning programme 2007-2013) have been incorporated into the Erasmus+ programme (2014-2020). Support for high-level master’s degree courses will continue under Key Action 1, which promotes the learning mobility of individuals. This includes a specific action to support degree mobility, i.e. excellence in joint master’s degree courses.

Degree/diploma mobility
Between 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, the number of Dutch students enrolled at an institution abroad rose to nearly 20,700. Where Dutch students are enrolled for a complete course of study abroad, the host country in nearly 80% of cases is another EU country. In the 2012/2013 academic year, the majority of students with Dutch student finance were to be found in Belgium, with the United Kingdom in second place, followed by the United States, Germany, Sweden and Portugal.

Credit mobility
The figure below gives an overview of credit mobility among Dutch students. In 2011 the percentage gaining experience abroad rose by 6% for HBO students and 2% for university (WO) students. In total, 20% of students indicated they had been abroad.

Evaluation of diplomas

Foreign diplomas are evaluated to establish their general value in the Netherlands, and to assess their content and level compared to Dutch equivalents.

Foreign qualifications in the Netherlands. Graduates may use any academic title acquired abroad in the Netherlands. However, to use a Dutch title (BA/BSc, MA/MSc, Dr/PhD), they need to apply to DUO for permission. Graduates who have studied abroad and have a foreign qualification, but want to work in the Netherlands, will be confronted with the need for professional recognition. For general information on academic and professional recognition procedures and information on procedures for a specific country, go to www.beroepserkenning.nl.

Dutch qualifications abroad. For admittance to an educational institution abroad, it may be necessary to have a Dutch qualification evaluated. The institution in question will inform applicants as to which documents they will need. Certificates sometimes have to be legalised. This entails the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) recognising them so that authorities abroad know that they are legal. Only certificates awarded for courses recognised by OCW are eligible for legalisation.

Diploma description (higher education). A diploma description is made out in the name of the holder and describes the Dutch qualification and the Dutch education system. It gives general recommendations as to the qualification to which it can best be compared in the country in question.

Europass

Students fulfilling a work experience placement in another European country may use the Europass. This is a set of documents in which employees and students can record their skills and qualifications. The Europass is an initiative launched by the European Commission to facilitate working and learning within Europe. The Europass is intended not only for students and teachers but also for newly graduated jobseekers.

The Europass may comprise the following documents:

  • Europass CV;
  • Europass Language Passport;
  • Europass Mobility;
  • Europass Certificate Supplement;
  • Europass Diploma Supplement.

Europass CV
The Europass CV is a standard Curriculum Vitae (CV) which is recognised by all EU countries. It can therefore be used for job applications in every EU country. It comprises a standard form on which individuals may list their qualifications and skills. They can download a template from the Europass website and create and update their own Europass CV online.

Europass Language Passport
In the Europass Language Passport, individuals list the various European languages of which they have a working knowledge. This is important if they apply for a job for which language skills are needed. A Europass Language Passport can be created online on the Europass website.

Europass Mobility
Europass Mobility records knowledge and skills acquired in another European country through, for example, a work experience placement or an academic exchange programme. This mobility document is not created by the person in question, but by the institution they attended or the employer for whom they worked.

Europass Certificate Supplement
The Europass Certificate Supplement is a document describing – in English and Dutch – the knowledge and skills acquired by the holders of vocational training certificates. It supplements but does not replace the official certificate. The National Reference Point of the Centre for Cooperation between Vocational Education and Training and the Labour Market (SBB) is responsible for issuing Europass Certificate Supplements.

Europass Diploma Supplement
The Europass Diploma Supplement describes the content, level and duration of HBO and university courses, making it easier for employers and educational institutions abroad to assess the value of a qualification. This is particularly useful for people seeking a work experience placement, wanting to study, or applying for a job abroad. The educational institution issuing the diploma is responsible for creating Diploma Supplements. In the Netherlands, it is compulsory for all institutions of higher education to provide them free of charge.

Inbound mobility of foreign students
Apart from outbound mobility of Dutch students, it is also interesting to take a look at inbound mobility of foreign students. The action plan ‘Make it in the Netherlands’ was launched in November 2013. It incorporates measures aimed at strengthening international students’ ties with the Netherlands. To achieve this aim, it is important for institutions, students, the business community and other stakeholders to work together.

With a rise from 56,674 in 2011/2012 to 58,453 in 2012/2013, there was again both a relative and an absolute increase in the number of foreign students studying in the Netherlands. Of the total number of students enrolled at government-funded higher education institutions, the percentage of foreign nationals rose from 8.5% to 8.8%. The number of foreign students in government-funded higher education is spread equally between HBO institutions and universities.

Staff mobility in higher education

The Netherlands has no national policy goals or national programmes for staff mobility in higher education. The government leaves it up to the higher education institutions themselves to organise, coordinate and finance their own mobility programmes.

There is no central database containing information on annual participation in such programmes. The situation in relation to university staff is, however, occasionally surveyed and monitored. The agreements between the Association of Universities in the Netherlands and the Council for Higher Professional Education contain regulations on salaries, remuneration and the social security provision applicable to mobility programmes. Individual institutions are responsible for determining the remuneration of staff taking part in international mobility programmes.

Erasmus+

In Erasmus+ staff mobility in higher education is included in Key Action 1. The main activities are:

  • Teaching assignments: developing innovative teaching methods, with two-way open mobility for partner countries;
  • Professional development: improving skills and competences of both academic and non-academic staff;
  • Invited staff from enterprise: raising the curriculum’s relevance.

In the 2010/2011 academic year, 773 teachers working in Dutch higher education institutions spent several months teaching abroad, compared to 709 in 2009/2010 and 592 in 2000/2001. Among the countries participating in the Erasmus programme, the Netherlands ranked 16th for outbound teacher mobility. The majority of Erasmus teachers came from Poland, Spain, Germany and France. For Dutch teachers participating in the programme, Germany, Belgium, Finland and the United Kingdom were the most popular countries, followed by Spain and France.

In the framework of the Erasmus staff mobility programme, 207 people underwent training abroad in the 2010/2011 academic year, compared to 114 in 2009/2010. The receiving countries were chiefly the United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, France and Italy.

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European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.