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.

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Research universities and universities of applied sciences

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. 

A professional focusUniversities 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 study 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?   

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The Dutch way of teaching

The Dutch teaching style is 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. 

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.

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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 39,433 24.9 36,814 24.8 1,012 21.4 1,607 31.1
7 63,726 40.2 60,064 40.4 1,816 38.3 1,846 35.8
8 42,602 26.9 39,902 26.9 1,443 30.5 1,257 24.4
9 11,378 7.2 10,551 7.1 428 9.0 399 7.8
10 1,282 0.8 1,199 0.8 37 0.8 46 0.9
  158,421 100 148,530 100 4,736 100 5,155 100

Source: HAN Diploma Supplement grading table 10 September 2021