Dutch Education System

The education system in the Netherlands has 2 kinds of universities: research universities and universities of applied sciences. At universities of applied sciences, education and research have a professional focus. The Dutch way of teaching is quite informal and credits are given according to the ECTS.

Dutch Higher Education System

Two types of universities in the Netherlands?

In the Dutch education system there are 2 types of higher education institutions: research universities and universities of applied sciences.  So  what’s the difference?  

Research universities focus solely on independent, research-oriented study in an academic or professional setting. Universities of applied sciences, on the other hand, offer their students programs that focus on a specific profession. Programs in the area of applied arts or applied sciences. Universities of applied sciences also carry out research, but it’s always practice-based. And it’s directly integrated into the study programs.

You can earn a bachelor or master degree at both types of institutions. Please note that a bachelor degree at a university of applied sciences does not give you direct access to a master at a university. First you need to do a "pre-master", which generally takes 1 year.

How do these different universities stand up in international rankings? And what about HAN? Find out more on the Ranking page.

The Dutch way of teaching

Dutch universities are quite informal. Lecturers are often addressed by their first names. As a student, you’re expected to actively participate and interact in class. To ask questions. To give your own opinion. To be creative. And to discover things for yourself.  

This approach might be quite different from the teaching style in your home country. So it might take a bit of getting used to. Our lecturers are aware of this. They do their very best to help you settle in and get used to the education style.

The informal teaching style is just 1 of the 7 reasons to study at HAN University of Applied Sciences. Curious about the other reasons? Find out the 7 reasons to study at HAN.

A professional focus

Universities of applied sciences

Universities of applied sciences have close links to the professional field. They  also conduct research for companies and organizations in the region and/or abroad.  Lecturers  and students participate in these research activities.   

So when you do a bachelor or master at a university of applied sciences like HAN you don’t just learn the ins and outs of your profession. You also develop general professional skills, like presenting, report writing and research skills. Skills that are essential in any workplace. 

Training for a profession also means thinking about your role as a professional. How can you contribute to society through your profession? How can you make a difference? And how can you practice your profession in a responsible way?   

Dutch Higher Education System
February and September start

Two intakes per year

Did you know that HAN University of Applied Sciences offers two intakes per year for some of our bachelor programs? These programs start in February as well as in September:


Global goals en internationale boeken

Credits and grading

At HAN we use the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System, or ECTS. It’s the standard credit system used in higher education across Europe. How does it work? One credit = 28 hours of study. This includes contact hours, time spent on assignments and preparing for exams.

One semester = 30 credits = 840 hours of study. To earn credits, you need to pass your exams. What counts as a pass? A grade of at least 5.5.

Dutch Grading System, Passing Grade and ECTS credit System

Grading in practice

According to the Dutch grading system, grades are awarded from 1 to 10. To pass you need a 6 or higher. How many students actually get a 6? And how many get a 10? The table below shows the number of students at HAN who received each passing grade in a period of 2 years. The numbers are also given as percentages.

  All degrees   Bachelor   Master   Associate  
Grade No. of students % No. of students % No. of students % No. of students %
6 121,684 27.5 114,426 24.8 2,351 22.3 4,907 28.3
7 164,531 37.1 154,324 40.4 3,993 37.9 6,214 35.8
8 114,138 25.8 106,644 26.9 3,136 29.8 4,358 25.1
9 34,758 7.8 32,277 7.1 926 8.8 1,555 9.0
10 7,812 1.8 7,378 0.8 131 1.2 303 1.8
  442,923 100 415,049 100 10,537 100 17,337 100

Source: HAN Diploma Supplement grading table 5 September 2023