AUAS and UvA: similar but different universities

Posted at: 4 Apr 2019

HvA, AUAS, UvA… These are the abbreviations you probably have already come across when planning your semester abroad in Amsterdam. They might sound confusing and at first you don’t even realize that these are in fact two different institutions. Well, there are quite a few differences between UvA and AUAS, that you surely will come across during your exchange. Anyway, to make sure you can prepare for your semester abroad I have summarised the most important ones for you. Keep on reading to find out which ones are relevant for you!

UvA – The University of Amsterdam

The Universiteit van Amsterdam or University of Amsterdam has a very traditional approach to university structure and life. It is a very big university that offers programmes in almost all fields of studies. Many exchangees opt for their vast range of elective courses.

Generally, the class sizes at the UvA are rather big and the assessment is based on individual work. Reading assignments are very common. Exams usually take place during two exam periods:

  • The Mid-Terms usually take place during the end of March and beginning of April
  • Finals are around the end of May and the beginning of June
  • For the exact dates please check the UvA homepage and search for the ‘academic calendar’.

The UvA has a few big campuses located around the city. They are on average bigger than the AUAS locations and feel more like an academic university. The Roeterseilandcampus, which is where most social sciences are located, is also home to CREA, the centre for social and cultural activities and it’s also home to the ISN office. Just check the UvA Campuses site on their website to see which campus offers your field of study!

AUAS (or HvA) – The more ‘college’ style university

The full anglicized title of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam is Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. For some Europeans, this is enough to understand the framework of how this university of applied sciences works. In most German-speaking countries this can be compared to a Fachhochschule. If you are from North America though, this description initially won’t ring a bell, as it is not a very common form of tertiary education there. Fear no more! I will explain to you what ‘applied sciences’ exactly means in the following paragraphs.

The AUAS is a University of Applied Sciences, which means that they generally offer a more practical approach, compared to the UvA. In other words, the class sizes are smaller, you mostly see the same people in every class and there’s a bigger focus on projects. This also means that it will be easy to get to know the people in your class.

Aside from that, they mostly assess their students continuously, which means homework and smaller assignments are very common. The AUAS has many different locations situated all over the city. It is advisable to check out the AUAS website and search for your programme or field of study to see which location you will be assigned to.

Bonus: Dutch grading system

The grading system is something not all exchange students know about beforehand! While most countries use letter grades or percentages, the Dutch do it their own way.

The Dutch have a ten-point scale, ten being the highest reachable grade. The benchmark for a fail might depend on your institution but it is usually around 5.5. However, 10 is hardly ever reached by anyone. An 8 is usually the best grade someone can get. If this still confuses you, just ask your professor to explain why you got a certain grade and which letter grade this would translate to!

By the way, the concept of GPA is not really a thing in the Netherlands! In case your home university needs to have a transcript of it, you either have to do the maths yourself or specifically ask the UvA or AUAS for an official document.

If you still have questions on this topic, feel free to send me a message!

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