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International education in English

Higher education institutions in Holland offer about 1,150 international study programmes and courses which are taught in English. These programmes cover a broad range of fields. Curricula are intensive, at an advanced level, practically-oriented, and designed to meet the expectations of students seeking specialized knowledge. The courses alternate theory with practice in real or simulated work situations. Most study programmes and courses lead to a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a PhD degree, a diploma or certificate.

The Dutch education system

Holland has two main types of regular higher education: university and university of professional education. The universities focus on the independent practice of research-oriented work in an academic or professional setting. The universities of professional education are more practically-oriented, preparing students directly for specific careers. A smaller branch of education is provided by Institutes for International Education, which offer programmes designed especially for foreign students.


There are 14 government-approved universities in Holland, three of which specialize in engineering. These institutions essentially train students in academic study and the application of knowledge, although many study programmes do also have a professional component and most graduates actually find work outside the research community. The universities vary in size, with enrolments ranging from 6,000 to 30,000. Altogether they enrol some 185,000 students.

20 Study in Holland

Universities of professional education

The study programmes offered by universities of professional education (hogescholen) are career-oriented. Acquiring practical work experience through internships is an integral part of professional study programmes. The country has 42 government-approved universities of professional education. The largest enrol 20,000 to 39,000 students. Altogether some 350,000 students are enrolled on this type of higher education programmes.

Institutes for International Education

Holland has been offering another form of higher education for more than 50 years: advanced courses taught in English in what is known as ‘international education’. These institutes (11) focus on development- oriented courses, based on working in small, intercultural groups and the exchange of knowledge, facilitated by teachers with extensive experience of working in low- income countries.

An overview of the universities, the universities of professional education and the Institutes for International Education can be found at www.studyin.nl and on page 48 of this brochure.

Higher education in Holland

Universities PhD: 4 years Master of Arts (MA): 1-2 years Master of Science (MSc): 1-2 years Bachelor of Arts (BA): 3 years Bachelor of Science (BSc): 3 years

Degrees: bachelor, master and PhD

Students who enrol on higher education programmes will obtain a bachelor’s degree upon completion of the undergraduate phase, and a master’s degree upon completion of the graduate phase. Universities and universities of professional education award both types of degrees, but with a difference in orientation: most degree programmes at universities focus on academic study and research, and those at universities of professional education on practical, professional knowledge. Institutes for International Education offer master’s programmes, but no bachelor’s programmes.

A bachelor’s programme at a university requires three years of full-time study (180 credits) to complete while a bachelor’s programme offered by a university of professional education requires four years of full-time study (240 credits). Depending on the discipline, master’s programmes at universities, universities of professional education and Institutes for International Education will last one to two years (60-120 credits). The doctorate (PhD) is only offered at universities and takes at least four years. A master degree is compulsory for admission.

Universities of professional education Master (M): 1-2 years Bachelor (B): 4 years


Total enrolment: 559,000 students with men and women in approximately equal numbers Average enrolment: Institutions vary in size, enrolling anywhere from 300 to 25,000 students Completion of studies: Each year some 83,000 students complete their studies Age entering university: Variable, but most first-year students are around 18 Age graduating: Variable, but most often 22 or 23 Foreign students: 42,000 students, about half of whom are from Europe

Higher education institutions in Holland

Universities (research-oriented universities):

  • 14 universities, three of which specialize

in engineering

  • Bachelor, Master and PhD programmes

Universities of professional education (career-oriented institutions):

  • 42 universities of professional education

  • Bachelor and Master programmes

Specialized Institutes of International Education:

  • 11 Institutes of International Education

  • Master and PhD programmes,

often aimed at mid-career professionals Research in Holland:

  • 10 of the 14 universities in Holland are in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education Ranking

  • 5th place on the world ranking of number of publications per capita

Institutes for International Education PhD (only possible at 5 institutes): 4 years Master of Arts (MA): 1-2 years Master of Science (MSc): 1-2 years

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