Educational system

Studying in the Netherlands means you will become part of the Dutch educational system. Consistently ranking among the best countries for education quality, the Dutch system is excellent. With eight qualification levels however, it often draws questions from international students. What makes the Dutch educational system unique? And how does it differ from the system in your home country?

In the Netherlands, there is a distinction between two main types of university-level education: universities of applied sciences (hogescholen) and research universities (universiteiten).

Universities of applied sciences, like the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), offer professional programmes in the applied arts and sciences. These programmes prepare students for specific careers, focusing on practical work experience through internships. Students participate in many field-research projects where they work in, and with, companies and organisations in the surrounding area of the university.

Research universities focus on the independent practice of research-oriented work, in an academic or professional setting.

The chart below offers a comparison of the two Duch university types:

University of applied sciences

Research university


Applied, concrete, practical

Education trains students for a specific profession. Knowledge is applied to work in a solution-oriented way.


Abstract, analytical, theoretical

Emphasis is placed on learning to analyse a certain field critically and analytically.


Teaching is the most important duty.

Research projects focus on addressing real issues faced by institutions and companies.


Universities have research duties alongside teaching duties.

The process of academic research is a component of lectures.

More supervision

Contact between students and lecturers is more intensive than at a research university.

More compulsory contact hours, including work groups and lectures, can be expected in comparison to research universities.

Less supervision

Students rely on their own initiative, operating independently and with great self-discipline.

Small-scale projects and tutorials, as well as large group lectures are common.


Placements are available to students during the entire duration of their degree programme.

Placement or research

Students finish their degree programme with a research project or placement.

Professions usually clear in advance

Students usually work in white-collar jobs following their studies.

Professions less clear in advance

Upon completing a degree programme, students generally find positions in the field of management, policy research or administration.

The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) offers a multitude of four-year Bachelor's degree programmes. With a Bachelor's degree you have the option of working immediately after completing your studies or entering a Master's programme. A Master's degree will take another one or two years to complete.

The AUAS offers a number of professional Master's degree programmes. The AUAS also collaborates closely with the University of Amsterdam (UvA) to help ensure a smooth transition for AUAS Bachelor's degree programme students seeking a Master's degree programme offered by the UvA.

All AUAS programmes are accredited by the NVAO (Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders). AUAS endorses the Code of Conduct for International Students in Dutch Higher Education, which constitutes a pledge of quality for all students.

Each module at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) is worth a certain number of ECTS credits.

ECTS stands for 'European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System', and was developed by the European Commission (arm of the European Union) to promote student mobility. It functions as an internationally recognised standard for describing and weighing modules, intended to facilitate the exchange of students (particularly between EU member states). The ECTS is based on the complete workload for the average student, including lecture attendance, practical work, personal study time and exam revisions. In the ECTS, one credit represents 25-30 hours of work, and the standard workload for one year is 60 credits. The AUAS offers four-year Bachelor's programmes (240 ECTS) as well as Master's programmes (60 or 90 ECTS).

ECTS grading table

Different study programmes tend to award grades in various ways. For instance: it may be easier for a student in study programme A to obtain an 8 than it is for a student in study programme B. In order to make the grades that are awarded in a specific degree programme more transparent, to better determine their actual value, and for mobile students to enable a fair conversion into local grades, the ECTS Grading Table has been introduced.

The grading table provides a statistical distribution of grades for a specific degree programme, calculated over the past three years. It indicates the percentage of students who gained the grades mentioned in the transcript of records and gives a clear indication of the student’s performance in relation to the current and the previous cohorts.

AUAS grades

Total number awarded in reference group

Grading percentages

10 11,486 1%
9 70,849 6%
8 272,213 23%
7 459,434 40%
6 353,276 30%
Total 1,167,258 100%

The AUAS uses the Dutch grading system. Grades are awarded on a scale from 1 to 10, in which 1 represents a very poor result and 10 an outstanding performance. The minimum passing grade is 5.5.

Official Dutch grading scheme

10 Excellent
9 Very good
8 Good
7 More than satisfactory
6 Satisfactory
5 Almost satisfactory
4 Unsatisfactory
3 Very unsatisfactory
2 Poor
1 Very poor

Besides gaining academic knowledge, studying at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences will give you practical training during your studies. The additional competences you will acquire through on-the-job learning are often sought by businesses and organisations, boosting your appeal as an international job market candidate.

Published by  Communication 24 November 2021