Everything You Need to Know About the Education System in Netherlands

6 min read

The Netherlands is famous for its quality education. Having a degree from any Netherlands institution will provide you with validation and open windows of opportunities. Here, you will find more information about the education system in Netherlands.

Netherlands school system

Children from the ages 5-16 must attend school. Dutch primary education has a stunning 94% graduation rate. Netherlands school system is as follows:

1. Dutch Day Care (kinderopvang, kinderdagverblijf, peuterspeelzaal)

Infants and young children in the Netherlands attend various non-compulsory daycare education until the age of 5. These school children attend the non-formal mode of the curriculum, often assisted by their parents and relatives.

2. Primary Schools (basisonderwijs)

Primary or elementary school, also known as GROEPEN, accommodates students from 4 to 12 years. This level of education starts from grade 1 to grade 8.

3. Secondary Schools (voortgezet onderwijs)

According to the Holland education system, secondary schools start from 12, and students enter different streams for their secondary education. These streams prepare students to pursue future academic careers. These streams are as follows:

  • VMBO (preparatory secondary vocational education): The VMBO is a four-year vocationally-orientated stream focussed on practical knowledge, which leads to vocational training (MBO). It has two qualification levels, and students complete the track at the age of 16.

  • HAVO (senior general secondary education): The HAVO is a five-year middle stream that prepares students to study higher professional education at universities of applied sciences (hogescholen), where they can follow a bachelor’s degree in applied sciences (HBO). Students complete the HAVO around the age of 17.

  • VWO (university preparatory education): The VWO is a six-year education stream focusing on theoretical knowledge that prepares students to follow a bachelor’s degree (WO) at a research university. Students study the VWO at schools known as atheneum and gymnasium and complete the stream around 18.

The cycle of the Higher Education System in the Netherlands

Like other countries, the higher education system in the Netherlands has three parts: Bachelor (undergraduate), Masters (graduate), and Ph.D. (or Peng). In the Netherlands, they are known as cycles. These cycles are:

  • Third Cycle: Ph.D. or PDEng

  • Second Cycle: Masters (MA/M.Sc/LLM/MBA/Med/MM etc.)

  • First cycle: Bachelors (BBA/ B.Sc/ LLB/ BA/BSW/ Bed/BM etc.)

Academic Year: Generally academic year is divided into two semesters:

  • First Semester (August - January)

  • Second Semester (February – June)

Grading System:

Netherlands’ grading system is on a scale of 1-10 (Poor to Outstanding). Grade of 10 correspondence to Highest academic achievement whereas grade of 6 is considered as a passing grade.

Grading System of Netherlands
10Outstanding *
9Very good *
7More than satisfactory
6Satisfactory (Passing Grade)
5Almost satisfactory
3Very unsatisfactory *
2Poor *
1Very poor *

Types of Institutions in the Education System in Netherlands

Types of Institutions in the Education System in Netherlands

  • Research Universities in the Netherlands are responsible for offering research-oriented programs in academic settings. Some research universities do have Research Colleges. The duration of study programs in these research institutions generally takes-

    • Bachelor of Arts (BA): 3 years

    • Bachelor of Science (BSc): 3 years

    • Master of Arts (MA): 1-3 years

    • Master of Science (MSc): 1-3 years

    • Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDEng): 2 years

    • Ph.D.: 4 years

    • LLB: 3 years

    • LLM: 1 year

  • Universities of applied science in Netherlands offer programs that have more practical applications in arts and sciences. The duration of the study program in universities of applied science are generally:

    • Associate (Ad): 2 years

    • Bachelor (B) of [field of study]: 4 years

    • Master (M) of [field of study]: 1-4 years

    • Bachelor of Science (BSc): 4 years

    • Bachelor of Arts (BA): 4 years

    • Master of Science (MSc): 1-2 years

    • Master of Arts (MA): 1-2 years

    • LLB: 4 years

    • LLM: 1 year

  • Institute for International Education (IE) offers advanced training and courses in a wide range of fields. Most of these programs are in collaboration with research universities. Duration of the programs offered is generally:

    • Ph.D. (only possible at one institute); duration is flexible

    • Master of Arts (MA): 1-2 years

    • Master of Science (MSc): 1-2 years

  • University Colleges in Netherlands is part of Dutch research universities inspired by the liberal arts and science programs in the United States of America. Liberal arts curriculum emphasizes student community, and it offers an inclusive small learning environment.

    The liberal arts approach to education is totally holistic, and its curriculum consists of courses from arts, science, humanities, and social sciences. A student can choose his/her own major after studying finishing his/her sophomore year.

  • Other Institutions: There are other institutions that offer international degree programs and short courses in collaboration with Dutch research universities.

Most degree programs that meet specific criteria get accreditation by the Accreditation Organization of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). A student’s workload is measured in ECTS credits (ECTS means European Credit Transfer System).

According to the Netherlands Education system, one credit represents 28 hours of work, and 60 credits represent one year of full-time study. Institution set a minimum admission requirement to enter the program. If you want to know your home country obtained degree equivalency to the Dutch education system. Click Here.

How to Apply:

Applying to any institution can be done in the following ways:

  • University application System: Some universities use its application system.

  • Studielink: Some university accepts application through Studielink(Central Application System)

Note: Though these documents are for Canadian Study permit application, you can get a gist of possible documents required for your student visa application. Customize these documents based on your own need.
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Cover Letter
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Forwarding Letter
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Student Financial Planning
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Explanation Letter of Source of Fund
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Explanation on previous Visa Rejection
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Source of Fund (For Businessperson as a sponsor)
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