Netherlands: Degree structure

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The Netherlands has a three cycle degree structure in line with the European Higher Education Area.

Research-oriented education (Wetenschappelijk onderwijs, WO)

Research-oriented education offers study programmes with the primary objective of “independent academic participation or the professional use of academic knowledge”. Research-oriented education is divided into three study cycles. Study programmes are divided into a bachelor’s programme of 3 years (180 ECTS) followed by a master’s programme that lasts 1 year (60 ECTS), 2 years (120 ECTS) or 3 years (180 ECTS), depending on the specialization. This can be followed by research for a doctor’s degree, which generally lasts 4 years. No ECTS credits are generally linked to this cycle.

Bachelor of Arts (BA) / Bachelor of Science (BSc)
  • Bologna cycle: -
  • Level in EQF: 6
  • Credit range: 180 ECTS
  • Duration: 3 years
  • General admission requirements: Admission to a programme at a research university (wetenschappelijk onderwijs, WO) requires a VWO diploma or the completion of the first year of higher professional education (HBO), in some cases with additional requirements relating to the subjects taken.
  • Description: The first cycle in research-oriented education lasts 3 years and leads to the title of Bachelor, with the addition ‘of Arts, of Science’, depending on the specialization. Students who graduate from a Law programme receive the title Bachelor of Laws (LLB). The bachelor’s programme may be divided into a first-year component (propedeutische fase) and a main component, and it has an academic orientation. Depending on the institution, students will focus primarily on one specialization, or on a main and subsidiary subject, known as the major/minor structure. In the third year of the study programme, students are often required to write a short final paper (scriptie). Every bachelor’s degree automatically gives admission to at least one master’s programme at the same university, but a bachelor’s degree may also conclude the student’s education. Admission to master’s programmes at other institutions is also possible if this is approved by the executive board of the institution and a certificate of admission is issued.
  • Additional explanation:-


Master of Arts (MA) / Master of Science (MSc)
  • Bologna cycle: -
  • Level in EQF: 7
  • Credit range: 60-180 ECTS
  • Duration: 1-3 years. The second cycle in research-oriented education lasts 1 year (for most specialisations), 2 years (engineering and scientific specialisations) or 3 years (medicine, veterinary science, pharmaceutical science and dentistry).
  • General admission requirements: With effect from the academic year 2010/2011, the bachelor’s diploma is compulsory for admission to the master’s programme.
  • Description: Since the introduction of the bachelor’s-master’s degree structure in 2002, this cycle leads to the title of Master, with the addition ‘of Arts, of Science’, depending on the specialisation. Students who graduate from a law programme receive the title Master of Laws (LLM). Under certain conditions, graduates from master’s programmes in research-oriented education are still entitled to use one of the traditional Dutch titles, depending on the specialisation. For most specialisation, this is the title doctorandus (drs.); for engineering studies or programmes in the field of agriculture and the natural environment, this is the title ingenieur (ir.) and for study programmes in Law, the title meester (mr.). During the second cycle, the student specialises in a particular field and is also taught about research methods. For most specialisation, writing a final paper is a compulsory component of the study programme.
  • Additional explanation:-
PhD
  • Bologna cycle: -
  • Level in EQF: -
  • Credit range: No ECTS credits are generally linked to this cycle
  • Duration: The third cycle of research-oriented education generally lasts 4 years and leads to the title of doctor (dr.).
  • General admission requirements:A master’s degree obtained in higher education can give admission to the doctoral programme (promotie).
  • Description: This primarily involves carrying out an independent research project, sometimes in combination with a study programme. The doctoral candidate (promovendus) writes a doctoral thesis (proefschrift) under the supervision of one or more supervisors (promotoren). After the thesis has been defended in public, the title of doctor is awarded. In addition, the three engineering universities offer third cycle programmes in technical design. These technical designer programmes have a nominal duration of 2 years. Graduates obtain the degree “Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDEng)”.
  • Additional explanation:-

Higher professional education (hoger beroepsonderwijs, HBO)

Higher professional education (HBO) is a form of higher education that has a more practical orientation, and its primary objective is “the transfer of theoretical knowledge and the development of skills that are closely linked to professional practice”.

Universities of applied sciences offer both bachelor’s programmes and Associate degree programmes. With effect from 1 September 2002, all initial higher professional education programmes have been converted into bachelor’s programmes. Since the introduction of the bachelor’s-master’s degree structure, it has also been possible for universities of applied sciences to offer master’s programmes. These programmes are recognised by law, provided they have been accredited by Accreditation organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders NVAO. See under Quality Assurance and accreditation. Besides this, universities of applied sciences still offer graduate programmes. Since the introduction of the bachelor’s-master’s degree structure, these programmes have continued to exist in their current form until such time as they are converted into master’s programmes. In most cases, this conversion has already taken place. These are graduate programmes in art education (kunstonderwijs) and architecture (bouwkunde) and the advanced teacher training programmes for special education and for teaching general subjects at all levels of secondary education.

Higher professional education is divided into two cycles: a bachelor’s programme lasting 4 years (240 ECTS) followed by a master’s programme of 1 year (60 ECTS) or 2 years (120 ECTS), depending on the specialisation. A master’s degree obtained at a university of applied sciences can give admission to the doctoral programme, the third cycle in higher education.

Bachelor’s programmes
  • Bologna cycle: -
  • Level in EQF: 6
  • Credit range: 240 ECTS
  • Duration: 4 years.
  • General admission requirements: Admission to higher professional education (hoger beroepsonderwijs, HBO) requires a HAVO or VWO diploma. For this type of education, too, additional requirements relating to the subjects taken apply in some cases. Admission to the HBO is also possible on the basis of a diploma from a management training (middenkaderopleiding) or specialist training (specialistenopleiding) programme in the MBO: in addition to admission to the HBO, this diploma also gives exemption from the first year in some cases, provided it has been obtained in a related field of study. Admission to the shorter associate degree programme takes place on the basis of the same admission requirements as those for the HBO programme in question.
  • Description: The first cycle of higher professional education lasts 4 years and leads to the title of Bachelor, with the addition of the specialisation in which the degree has been obtained (for example Bachelor of Economics, Bachelor of Education). Depending on the specialization, graduates from bachelor’s programmes in higher professional education are still entitled under certain conditions to use one of the traditional Dutch titles, baccalaureus (bc.) or ingenieur (ing.). The study programme in the first cycle is divided into a propedeuse (the first year) followed by a main programme of 3 years. Students carry out a compulsory internship lasting about 9 months to acquire practical experience, mostly in the third year. On the basis of this internship, the fourth year includes a final paper or graduation project.
  • Additional explanation:-
Associate degree programme (Ad-programme)
  • Bologna cycle: -
  • Level in EQF: 5
  • Credit range: 240 ECTS
  • Duration: 2 years
  • General admission requirements:
  • Description: A short cycle also exists within the first cycle. This lasts 2 years (120 ECTS) and is completed with an Associate Degree. The first pilot Associate degree programmes started in 2006 / 2007. The Associate Degree (abbreviated AD) was introduced by law in 2007. It is a new type of higher education that forms part of a bachelor’s programme in higher professional education. At present, almost 60 Associate degree programmes can already be followed in the specialisations behaviour and society (gedrag en maatschappij), health care (gezondheidszorg), engineering (techniek), economics (economie), agriculture and the natural environment (landbouw en natuurlijke omgeving) and language and culture (taal en cultuur). In the future, Associate degree programmes leading to a teaching qualification for secondary or vocational education will probably also be offered. After obtaining an Associate Degree, students may choose whether to enter the labour market or to follow the corresponding HBO bachelor’s programme: after completing an Associate degree programme, students can obtain a bachelor’s degree within 2 years.
  • Additional explanation:-
Master’s programmes
  • Bologna cycle: -
  • Level in EQF: 7
  • Credit range: 60-120 ECTS
  • Duration: 1-2 years. The second cycle in higher professional education usually lasts 1 year, but in some specializations (such as music) this is 2 years.
  • General admission requirements:
  • Description: This cycle leads to the title of Master with the addition of the specialization in which the degree has been obtained, for example Master of Social Work. During the master’s programme, the student specialises further in carrying out a particular profession. A final paper or graduation project forms part of the programme, with the emphasis on applied research. The range of titles in higher professional education will be expanded in the (near) future.
  • Additional explanation:-

Degree structure chart

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National Framework of Qualifications

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