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Netherlands:National Reforms in Higher Education

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Netherlands:Higher Education

Netherlands:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Netherlands:First Cycle Programmes


Netherlands:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Netherlands:Second Cycle Programmes

Netherlands:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Netherlands:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Netherlands:Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Distribution of Responsibilities

Netherlands:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

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Netherlands:Teachers and Education Staff

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Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Management and Other Education Staff

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Netherlands:Management Staff for Higher Education

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Netherlands:Quality Assurance

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Educational Support and Guidance

Netherlands:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Netherlands:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Netherlands:Mobility and Internationalisation

Netherlands:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Mobility in Higher Education

Netherlands:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Netherlands:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Netherlands:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:National Reforms in School Education

Netherlands:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Netherlands:National Reforms in Higher Education

Netherlands:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Netherlands:European Perspective






Teaching performance to play a more important part in academic careers

News item, January 2017

Career opportunities for academics are too limited. Universities set too much store by research and publications, and only pay lip service to the quality of teaching. In future, however, they will be required to take this more explicitly on board in assessing academic staff performance. This is one of the measures announced by education minister Jet Bussemaker in her letter (only available in Dutch) to the House of Representatives on academic talent (in Dutch).

Waste of academic talent

Ms Bussemaker notes that young academics have too few opportunities within universities. She also concludes that the close link between research and teaching at universities is under threat. The prevalent culture focuses on research and publication. This causes a division between academics who publish successfully and have flourishing careers and those who fulfil the necessary task of passing on their knowledge to future generations, but are often on temporary or flexible contracts.

Only 17% of university professors are women. In addition, there are too few academics from ethnic-minority communities. Many PhD researchers are unprepared for a career outside the academic world. To prevent this waste of academic talent, Ms Bussemaker wants: 

  • greater diversity in career paths,
  • better career opportunities for researchers,
  • more women in higher positions at universities,
  • and more ethnic diversity.

€5 million for an extra 100 women professors

Ms Bussemaker has made a one-off allocation of €5 million in 2017, enabling universities to appoint 100 extra women professors. With this extra investment, she wants to spur universities on to increase the number of women professors beyond the 200 target set by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) for 2020.

€4 million for teaching and research in higher professional education
In 2017 Ms Bussemaker is also investing €4 million in the introduction of the higher professional education (HBO) postdoctoral/teacher programme. Her aim is to boost research-related teaching in HBO. In this two-year programme, researchers divide their time equally between teaching and research. HBO teachers with PhDs and post-doctoral researchers wanting to transfer to HBO are eligible. The minister has earmarked €2 million a year for this programme after 2017.

Incentive for research careers

  • Ms Bussemaker welcomes universities’ new collective labour agreements in which they have agreed to cut the number of employees with flexible contracts of four years and less.
  • She is also planning to facilitate ‘societal doctorates’, in which PhD students follow part of their programme at a government institution.
  • She has also called on universities to pursue a more ethnically diverse hiring policy. They have agreed to draft a joint action plan, and to report on their progress in their annual reports.

Comenius grants
The measures announced by Ms Bussemaker in her letter on academic talent are additional to those contained in the Strategic Agenda for Higher Education. The Comenius grants, to be awarded for the first time this spring to individual teachers or teaching teams, will boost the teaching careers of talented young teachers. The budget for these grants will increase to €20 million a year.


Less red tape in higher education

News item, December 2016

A lower burden of accountability, fewer overlapping rules and regulations, more autonomy and more trust in higher education institutions. These are the principles underpinning the new accreditation framework launched by education minister Jet Bussemaker on 20 December 2016.

  • The new accreditation framework – which is 50% shorter than its predecessor – sets out the requirements higher education courses need to meet. Procedures for accountability reporting are prescribed in less detail, giving institutions more autonomy, while safeguarding quality. Since teachers will spend less time on paperwork, they will be able to focus on improving the standard of teaching.
  • There will also be greater trust in institutions. A better balance will be struck between reporting on the quality of teaching and peer dialogue, for which more time will be set aside. Students will also be more closely involved. They will contribute to the self-evaluation of the course, on which accreditation will be based.

The new framework is part of Ms Bussemaker’s broader plan to improve quality assessment in higher education. Early next year, the Customised Accreditation Bill will be sent to the House of Representatives. Once it becomes law, this bill will enable panels of students to advise on the quality of courses. To move forward with her plans to reduce red tape and put greater trust in institutions, the minister is now preparing a trial with accreditation based on a lighter form of quality assessment. Up to six higher education institutions will be invited to take part.

Associate degree gets autonomous status in higher education

News item, November 2016

A new level exists in Higher education. Apart from the HBO-bachelor (bachelor of the university of applied sciences), the HBO-master, the WO-bachelor (university) and the WO-master, the Associate Degree (Ad) also gets its own spot in the higher education system. The ministerial council has, on a proposal from Dutch minister Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science, agreed with a bill in which the autonomous status of the Ad is regulated.

  • The Ad exist now as a two-year track which must be linked to a HBO-bachelor.
  • By abandoning this relation, there is more room for the Ad to develop an own pedagogic concept and a labor market profile. In this way, the Ad gets an own identity and it becomes recognizable as an independent study programme.
  • The greater variety of Ad’s creates more freedom of choice for students.  

The institution that offers an Ad, must continue to support the transition to a HBO-bachelor if the Ad-student needs it. Later on, the Ad shall also be inspected independently (accredited), whereas now it still follows in the accreditation of the related bachelor course.
The Ad provides mainly in the need of MBO-students (students in vocational education) and employed people who want to learn more but don’t want to follow a complete HBO-bachelor.

The ministerial council has consented to send the bill for advice to the Council of State. The text of the bill and of the advice of the Council of State shall be made public when submitting to the Lower House of Parliament.

Paying course per ECTS

News item, September 2016

It must be made possible for students at some institutions for higher education (universities of applied sciences, and universities) to pay tuition fees per ECTS. This is stated in a proposal of the Dutch Minister Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science to experiment with flexible studying in full-time education. The council of ministers agreed with the experiment.

  • The experiment makes it possible for participating institutions to deviate of the rule that students always have to pay tuition fees for a full academic year.
  • Students who undertake other activities (for example the co-determination) next to their study or who cannot focus entirely on their study due to circumstances such as illness or responsibilities as an informal carer or parent, can pay per ECTS in the experiment.

By allowing students to pay only for the education that they want to follow, the freedom of choice and the development of the students is the focus. By placing the management more at the students, they will have more space to organise their study in a way that fits their circumstances. This stimulates students to plan for the longer term and to bring out the best of themselves.

The Minister wants to investigate with this experiment whether this kind of flexibility leads to

  • better accessibility of higher education,
  • to more increased satisfaction of the student,
  • to more self-development opportunities,
  • and to less drop-outs.

With the experiment, which will start at some higher education institutions and universities, the wishes of students to study in a more flexible way are being met and the motion of two political parties (PvdA and VVD) will be implemented.

The proposal will first be proposed in the House of Representatives and the Senate and will finally go for advice to the Council of State.

Commission evaluation performance agreements set up

News item, Augustus 2016

The Ministerial Council has on a proposal of Dutch minister Bussemaker (education) adopted the establishment of a Commission who will evaluate the performance agreements in higher education.

Chaired by the commissioner of the King Wim van de Donk, the commission will the evaluate the experiment with the performance agreements and will look how these agreements have contributed to the growth of the quality culture in higher education.
In 2012, performance agreements have been made with the funded institutions in higher education on education quality, study success, profiling and valorization. 7% of the total state funding of education is linked to the performance agreements made with educational institutions.
Apart from van de Donk, Edith Hooge, Hans de Jong, Frans Leijnse, Yvonne Moerman-van Heel, Tariq Sewbaransignh, Adam Tyson and Els Verhoef are also included in the evaluation commission.

By 1 march 2017 at the latest, the evaluation commission will offer her rapport to minister Bussemaker.
From this rapport, lessons can be learnt for the design of the quality agreement that will be applicable from 2018 onwards.  For those quality standards, the resources will be linked through the introduction of the study prepayment. (student finance system)

Greater choice of masters at HBO-level

News item June 2016

Each student in higher education should have the opportunity to follow a master’s program. To realize this, more masterprograms at HBO-level (university of applied sciences) will be offered. This should ensure that the transition from bachelor to master studies will pass seamlessly.

In this way, Ms. Bussemaker, the Dutch minister of Education realizes her ambition, as stated in the Strategic Agenda for Higher Education, Research and Science. Admittedly, the number of master-studies at HBO-level has risen, but not far enough. Subsequently, the number master graduates should rise by offering more master-programs.

A master at HBO-level can be followed on a full-time basis following a bachelor degree or alongside a job.

Minister of education imposes conditions on transnational education

News item May 2016

Higher education institutions and universities who want to provide education abroad have to apply to certain conditions.  This is what minister Bussemaker (Education) writes in a letter to the Lower House.

The Minister makes transnational education possible because it strengthens the international (educational) networks and it facilitates the exchange of pupils and teachers. In order to prevent unnecessary rivalry among Dutch public institutions abroad, the minister imposes certain conditions.
Only courses and institutions of which the quality is unquestionable will have approval to offer courses abroad.


Lifelong learning at HBO institutions and universities

News item October 2015

A total of 19 institutions of higher professional education (HBO) are going to develop part-time courses. For many years, working people who wanted to retrain or update their skills have found that most of the available part-time courses in higher professional education too closely resemble the full-time equivalent: insufficient account is taken of previously acquired knowledge and skills, and of candidates’ working hours. However, HBO institutions are now being given greater scope to tailor their education provision more closely to students’ and employers’ requirements. They have teamed up with the business community to align part-time higher professional education with the needs of working people by offering independent modules, classes in the workplace and a greater degree of customisation. This is the thrust of the progress report sent to parliament in late October 2015 by education minister Jet Bussemaker.

The 19 HBO institutions have applied to participate in trials with demand-driven funding, in which students can be eligible for vouchers to purchase study modules. This in turn stimulates institutions to tailor their education provision more closely to the requirements of part-time students. The participating institutions are offering a more flexible curriculum in the form of independent modules. Classes may also be held at extramural locations, such as students’ own workplace. In recent months, HBO institutions, trade associations and employers have held intensive consultations about giving a major and concerted boost to demand-driven funding in part-time higher education. The first trials will be run in the Care & Welfare and Engineering & Technology sectors, where the importance of lifelong learning is greatest because of the changing labour market.

Considerable interest has also been shown in the pilot project on greater flexibility. Thirty-two applications were submitted for making 600 university and HBO courses more flexible. Flexible courses are designed around the educational needs of part-time students, taking greater account of their previously acquired knowledge and skills so that a more tailored provision can be delivered.

In January 2016 it will be announced which institutions and courses have the go-ahead to conduct trials with demand-driven funding or take part in the flexibility pilot project.

Higher education: smaller scale, tailor-made and better quality

News item July 2015

Higher education institutions are to recruit thousands of new teachers, students will be given more scope to shape their own studies, and universities will focus more on teaching. These are the key points of the Strategic Agenda for Higher Education 2015-2025 (only available in Dutch) proposed by education minister Jet Bussemaker in July 2015.

The quality of higher education will be a categorical priority over the next few years. A large part (60%) of the savings resulting from the new student loan system will be available for recruiting extra teaching staff. There will be smaller classes, more individual attention for students and a more challenging curriculum.

More teachers
Up to 2025, resources are being made available for 2,500 extra full-time equivalent teachers in higher professional education and 1,400 extra full-time equivalent university lecturers. This means an increase of almost 15% on present staffing levels. In addition, funding is being made available for hundreds of teacher-researchers and lecturers/senior lecturers with combined research and teaching duties at universities, and for hundreds of extra readers (lectors) and PhD candidates with teaching duties. This will nearly double the ratio of readers per HBO student.

To boost renewal in higher education, a new scholarship programme will be launched. It will provide Comenius grants for teachers and school heads. In the long run, it will disburse around €20 million per year. Outstanding and promising teachers, teaching teams and school leaders will be eligible for grants of €50,000, €100,000 or €250,000 to fund innovation and thus improve the quality of education. For educational research, additional funding of up to €5 million will be made available from 2018.

Education always benefits when teachers share their knowledge. They will be expected to make their digital teaching resources freely available online, through a national or international platform. All teaching resources must be open-source by 2025 and educational institutions will be asked to recognise Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by fellow institutions.

Greater scope for personal choice
The notion that higher education merely trains people for the job market is out of date, according to education minister Jet Bussemaker. She believes that higher education should prepare young people for the future. This includes employment but extends to social involvement, moral awareness and self-development.

Knowledge and skills will remain essential, but it will be equally important for students to learn reflection and critical thinking. Through the measures contained in the Strategic Agenda, the minister will seek to increase scope for students’ personal development. She will support projects that push the boundaries of the system, for instance with rule-free zones. These could be test-beds for flexible study, as already proposed by the national students’ union LSVB.

Students will also have greater scope for combining study subjects. So, for instance, a university student could take subjects at an art college, and HBO-level sports academies could work together more closely with medical faculties. The regulations governing master’s degree courses at HBO institutions will be relaxed to enable HBO students to engage in research. Institutions will also be encouraged to excel in teaching, digitisation and part-time education for adults (lifelong learning).

The number of students dropping out of higher education is still far too high: 40% of first-year students in HBO institutions fail to complete their first course of study, compared with 26% of students at university. It is extremely important to match students with the course of study that is right for them. This can be done by further expanding the study choice test, improving student counselling and further diversifying educational provision, for instance by offering three-year HBO programmes for secondary school students with a pre-university qualification, and HBO master’s degree programmes. Associate degree programmes (a two-year scheme for students with an MBO qualification and working people who do not want to do a full HBO bachelor’s degree programme) will be given independent status, so that, in the near future, they will not have to be embedded in an existing HBO bachelor programme. It is hoped that this will give the associate degree greater prominence as a programme in its own right.

The accessibility of higher education must be safeguarded. Every student who has sufficient talent and interest should be able to embark on a course of study, regardless of their cultural background or financial situation. For this reason, the minister is unwilling to introduce separate fees for honours degree programmes. Ms Bussemaker is also making €30 million available to promote a smoother transition between secondary, secondary vocational and higher education, and improve access to higher education for certain groups.

Studying abroad to be made more attractive

News item July 2015

The government is removing a number of obstacles encountered by students who wish to study abroad. It has approved a bill promoting international exchanges in higher education and research as proposed by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker.

The bill will make it easier for Dutch students to study abroad and for students from other countries to study in the Netherlands. Universities and HBO institutions will be able to reduce or even waive tuition fees for students who are following a combined course of study at an institution in the Netherlands and an institution abroad. In addition, Dutch doctorate degrees will be recognised as equivalent to PhD degrees, which are more common in other countries.

Students wishing to study abroad will be able to apply to their institution’s student financial support fund. The bill will also enable senior lecturers to act as supervisors for students working towards a doctorate, as is customary in other countries.

The Cabinet has agreed to submit the bill to the Council of State for its advisory opinion. The text of the bill and the Council of State’s advisory opinion will be published when they are presented to the House of Representatives.

Associate degree to be given independent status

News item June 2015

Associate degree (AD) programmes are being given independent status. This means they will be run independently of HBO bachelor’s programmes. This will add a new educational level to the higher education system, offering students a wider range of choice. Education minister Jet Bussemaker announced these plans in a letter to the House of Representatives.

The associate degree will have a place of its own alongside the bachelor’s and master’s degrees offered by HBO institutions and universities. In terms of level, the AD ranks between middle-management/specialist training at secondary vocational education level (MBO 4) and a HBO bachelor’s degree. Currently AD programmes comprise two years and are embedded in a HBO bachelor’s degree course. By giving these courses independent status, they will be able to develop their own teaching approach, identity and labour market profile. A wider variety of AD courses will mean greater choice for students.

Own identity
The associate degree was given legal status in 2013, following a pilot phase. Currently, around 6,000 students are enrolled in publicly-funded associate degree programmes – less than 2% of the total number of HBO undergraduates. The AD courses are particularly geared to the needs of students with an MBO qualification and working people who do not want to do a full HBO bachelor’s degree programme. An AD opens the way to a wide variety of careers, including store manager and office manager.

The associate degree’s independent status means that its curriculum can differ from the associated bachelor’s degree programme. This offers scope for an own identity. For instance, courses may be full-time or part-time, combine study and work experience, or combine different existing courses (‘crossovers’). Entirely new courses may also be developed. In the future, HBO institutions will also be allowed to offer associate degree programmes in alternate years. This will prevent classes being too small – a problem which is currently deterring HBO institutions from offering associate degrees.

Transition to bachelor’s degree courses
Although the associate degree will be a qualification in its own right, institutions offering it will also have to facilitate the transition to bachelor’s courses at students’ request. The associate degree currently falls under the accreditation procedure for the associated bachelor’s programme, but in the future, it will be accredited separately.

The new bill is part of the Minister of Education’s plans to improve the quality of higher education.

Major revision of quality assurance system in higher education

News item June 2015

The quality assurance system in higher education is to undergo major revision. Unnecessary paperwork will be abolished: there will be less emphasis on proving that procedures have been followed and more on improving the quality of learning. Responsibility for quality assurance will be returned to where it belongs: with teachers and students.

The quality of teaching must be guaranteed at all times. Accountability reporting is an important tool to this end, but the current system is so demanding that the process of improvement – which is far more important – is under pressure. The education minister wants to shift the focus away from procedures to better quality education. Good education is learner-centred and the role of the teacher is key. Teachers will therefore be entrusted and enabled to take responsibility for their own teaching, instead of being burdened with administrative obligations to third parties.

More trust, less paperwork
The new system will focus less on procedures and top-down requirements, and more on educational quality. Teachers will be responsible for the quality of their teaching and the administrative burden will be reduced. Educational institutions will still be subjected to a peer evaluation every six years, but not because their accreditation automatically lapses after that time and needs to be renewed. Instead, the accreditation is valid indefinitely and will be reviewed every six years to see if there is any reason for withdrawing the accreditation. This, too, is a reflection of trust in educational institutions.

Accreditation paperwork to be cut by half
One of the most commonly-heard complaints about accreditation is the amount of paperwork institutions have to deliver for accountability purposes. There has even been a case of a teaching and examination regulation consisting of 1,100 pages and an institution accumulating an accreditation dossier comprising 60 files. According to the Netherlands-Flanders Accreditation Organisation (NVAO), this is all in the past and accreditation paperwork will be cut by half. The NVAO has pledged to give clearer instructions about the documentation institutions are required to deliver. Institutions and teaching staff will have their own responsibility. Dual procedures involving accreditation at teaching and institutional level and between national and European accreditation systems will be abolished, as far as possible. The NVAO, the Education Inspectorate, the Committee for Efficiency in Higher Education (CDHO only available in Dutch) and the Higher Education Review Committee (RCHO) will work much more closely together, so that institutions will effectively have to deal with only one supervisory organisation (that monitors the quality of higher education).

The new system will give teachers more time and opportunity to focus on the quality of teaching, so that students will benefit from better lessons and more individual attention. In addition, students will have a seat on the evaluation panel, giving them a say in evaluating their institution. The institution may only participate in the institutional evaluation pilot after the participation council has given its consent.

The institutional evaluation pilot will start in 2017. Three universities and three HBO institutions will participate. Accreditation will take place at institutional level; individual programmes will no longer be accredited by the NVAO. For the most part, institutions will be able to decide for themselves how they give account. This is a token of confidence in the education institutions. In the 2020/2021 academic year the pilot will be evaluated and a decision will be made on whether to expand the institutional accreditation procedure to more institutions.

The new bill is part of the Minister of Education’s plans to improve quality in higher education.


Benelux countries agree on mutual recognition of higher education diplomas

News item May, 2015

The minister of Education, Culture and Science and her Benelux counterparts have approved a decision whereby Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees awarded by higher education institutions in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg will be automatically recognised throughout the Benelux. This was agreed in Brussels this afternoon by Hilde Crevits (Flemish Government), Jean-Claude Marcourt (Government of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels), Harald Mollers (Government of the German-Speaking Community of Belgium), Jet Bussemaker (Government of the Netherlands) and Marc Hansen (Government of Luxembourg).

Reducing administrative burden
This decision gives residents of each of the 3 Benelux countries legal certainty that their Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees will automatically be recognised in the other 2. Complicated, expensive, time-consuming accreditation procedures will now be a thing of the past. In some cases, these procedures could take as long as 4 months and cost as much as € 200 per person. Each country may however still screen the content of diplomas and professional qualifications awarded in the others.

Incentive for student and worker mobility
The decision also removes an obstacle for residents of the Benelux wanting to work or study in a neighbouring country. It will be a lot easier to study in one of the other countries, as enrolment in their study programmes will go much more smoothly. Transborder worker mobility will also benefit, leading to a closer match between supply and demand on the Benelux labour market. Employers will be able to fill vacancies more easily, and job seekers find work much faster.

European Higher Education Area
This decision is a first for European cooperation on education, in which automatic recognition of higher education diplomas figures prominently on the agenda. With this initiative, the 3 Benelux countries lead the field in Europe, working on a regional basis towards achieving a single European Higher Education Area. This move by the Benelux higher education ministers underscores the notion that trust, based on shared standards and agreements on quality assurance, forms the basis for further cooperation on this subject at European level.

Obstacles to studying abroad removed

News item May, 2015

Studying abroad will become more attractive. Dutch universities will be able to reduce or even waive tuition fees for students doing joint and dual degree programmes at an institution in the Netherlands and a partner institution abroad; the Doctor’s degree will be made equivalent to the PhD (in line with practice in other countries), and students wanting to go abroad can apply to their institution’s financial support fund for a grant (Profileringsfonds.)

The minister of Education, Culture and Science has announced all these measures in a bill to promote the internationalisation of higher education. Its text has been posted on, the government internet forum on which the public may respond to plans for new legislation. The aim is to promote the internationalisation of education by removing obstacles confronting students who want to study abroad. International experience greatly helps students to acquire knowledge, skills and professional competences. It also contributes to their personal development and helps them to form their identity.

No more double tuition fees
To date, joint and dual degree programmes between Dutch institutions or between Dutch institutions and partners abroad have not proved popular among either the institutions themselves or their students, mainly because the students (both Dutch and foreign) often have to pay double tuition fees.

Under the bill, new tuition fee regulations are to be introduced for these programmes. Dutch institutions may lower or waive tuition fees for students studying for joint or dual degrees. This means that foreign students who have already paid tuition fees in their own country will be exempt from paying them in the Netherlands. The same will apply to Dutch students studying abroad. If they are enrolled at a Dutch institution they will not have to pay tuition fees at the foreign institution. Institutions themselves will make the necessary arrangements.
To reduce red tape, students doing joint or dual degree programmes may be required to enrol for the entire period at the institution in the Netherlands.

Financial support fund
Regulations will be adapted so that institutions can provide financial support for students wanting to do part of their degree abroad. This will give students an extra incentive to gain international experience. An example of this kind of financial support is the Holland Scholarship programme, for which funds have already been earmarked.

Choice of study
In the Netherlands, aspiring students need to register for their higher education course by 1 May. They then have to sit a test to establish course suitability and enable students and courses to be matched. Under the new bill, foreign students will also have to sit the test. They will be able to do this from their own countries, either online, by phone or via Facetime.

Doctor and Doctor of Philosophy
From now on, Dutch universities may award the degree of both Doctor and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Up to now, Dutch law only recognised the title of Doctor, while PhD is more generally used abroad. Equivalence will make it more attractive for scholars to work together at international level and to do their doctorates in the Netherlands.

PhD supervisors
Previously, universities had to appoint professors as PhD supervisors. They can now appoint other members of the university staff, for example senior lecturers. This will improve career prospects for researchers in the Netherlands and is in line with international trends. The Doctorate Board decides who may act as PhD supervisors.
This bill forms part of the ministers’ strategy to improve the quality of higher education. She will shortly publish her Strategic Agenda for higher education, setting out her plans for the coming years.

€830.000 for open and online education 

News item May, 2015

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science grants eleven projects from the incentive Open and Online Education.  45 proposals were submitted.
With this scheme the Minister encourages universities and institutions in higher professional education to further develop open and online education, with the help of MOOCs (massive open online course), and SPOCs (small private online course) and blended learning. Open and online education can give a boost to the quality and accessibility of higher education. Therefore the Minister makes money available for this incentive up to and including 2018.

The Scientific Technical Council of SURF, the collaborative ICT organization for higher education and research, has assessed all proposals and advised the Minister. SURF will supervise and coordinate the projects and the exchange of knowledge.

Besides the development of the eleven projects, a broader investigation will be launched to online education in the Netherlands. This research is conducted by the ‘Nationaal Regieorgaan Onderwijsonderzoek’ and will look at these eleven project together, in order to obtain insight in the renovation and improvement of higher education through open and online education.

You can find an overview of the eleven project on open and online higher education at the website of SURF (only in Dutch available).

Stricter naming rules for academic institutions

News item May, 2015

Under a bill submitted for online consultation by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, institutions will only be able to refer to themselves as ‘hogeschool’ or ‘universiteit’ (or equivalent translations of these terms) if they have been officially recognized as such. Degree titles like ‘Bachelor’ and ‘Master’ will also receive better protection.

The Minister wishes to end the long-running practice of organizations presenting themselves as officially recognized institutions of higher education. Some have even gone as far as to offer degrees they are not entitled to award. Not only are they misleading students and employers, they are damaging the Netherlands’ world-renowned reputation for excellence in higher education.

‘These organizations are cashing in on the Netherlands’ hard-won name,’ said the Minister. ‘They’re asking students to waste their time and money on qualifications that are worthless. This has gone on for too long already: sanctions are needed.’

Under the bill, only recognized academic institutions will have the right to call themselves ‘hogeschool’ or ‘universiteit’ and award the corresponding qualifications. Dutch-based branches of recognized institutions from the European Economic Area will also be able to use the terms. However, it must be clear who awards their degrees and what their parent institution is. Non-EEA institutions can only refer to themselves as ‘hogeschool’ or ‘universiteit’ if they are among the world’s best.

Experiment for PhD students

News item February, 2015

The opportunities for doing doctoral research will be expanded. In addition to the employee-PhD students, the external doctoral candidates (buitenpromovendus) and the PhD student with a scholarship from (for example) a company, the Minister of Education will start an experiment for students to promote with a scholarship from the university.

With this experiment the Dutch system for higher education gets a so-called third cycle, in which students after obtaining a bachelor’s- and master’s degree also can obtain a doctorate while being a student. In most countries around the Netherlands this opportunity already exists. The expectation is that there will be more Dutch PhD students and that the Netherlands will become more attractive for foreign students. 

In this experiment PhD students will receive a scholarship from the university. The basic principle of the VSNU (Association of universities in the Netherlands) is that the scholarship students receive is basically equivalent to the net income of an employee-PhD student. The PhD student is not employed by the university and has therefore no teaching duties. As a result of this, these PhD students can graduate faster. The universities agreed that the universities participating in this experiment can have a maximum of 2000 PhD students in total (for all universities together). 

Duration of the experiment
The experiment runs up to a maximum of eight years. The experiment will be examined regularly so that no adverse effects will occur (for example losing quality of promotions). The measure stipulates that the Minster of Education may stop the experiments prematurely.

Universities that wish to participate must apply before November 1, 2015. The first PhD students will start to work by January 1, 2016.

The Senate accepts the bill for reforms in student finance

News item January, 2015

The Senate accepted the bill for reforms in student finance (studievoorschot). With this reform the Cabinet will free up more than € 1 billion in order to invest it in higher education.

This ‘studievoorschot’ (study advance) will exist from September 2015 and consists of a scholarship for students whose parents make less than €46,000 per year, a loan and a tuition fees credit. The supplementary grant may run to  €365 per month for students whose parents make less than €30,000 per year. For parents who make more than this amount of salary, the supplementary grant for students is less (decreasing). Students of parents that have several children who study, can also receive a supplementary grant when parents have a higher income (than mentioned before).

The right on a basic grant for all students in higher education, regardless of their parents' income, will expire for new students (from August 2015). The basic grant for students in vocational education and training continues to exist. 

The maximum period of repayment will increase from 15 up to 35 years.

The student travel rights for students in higher education continues to exist and will be expanded for students in vocational education and training, under the age of 18; starting at the latest in 2017. Besides students can have a say in the main features of the budget of the institution (higher professional education or university) where they are studying.


Start of incentive ‘Open and online education’

News item November, 2014

On 17 November the Ministry of education has opened the tender for the incentive for open and online higher education. In collaboration with SURF the minister of Education challenges the Dutch higher education institutions to investigate in what way open and online education can contribute to innovation and an improvement of quality at their own institutions. The minister of education has made € 1 million.(annual) available from 2015 up to and including 2018.

There will be an incentive where institutions can make a proposal how they want to use open and online education in their own context. The maximum grant for this incentive will be € 100,000 per project and must be matched by the institutions with at least fifty percent of their own resources. There will also be an overarching research about open and online education. The National Transition Board Research in Education (NRO) opens therefore a call for proposals. The aim is to gain more insight how open and online education can contribute to the improvement and renovation of higher education.

Both the incentive as the overarching research focus on the contribution of open and online education to the quality, accessibility and effectiveness of higher education and an increase of academic success.

SURF provides the monitoring of the projects, the sharing of knowledge and the dissemination of project results. SURF also initiates short-term (research) projects on various aspects of open and online education. SURF and NRO collectively ensure the coordination and mutual reinforcement of the incentive and the overarching research.

Click here for more information on the incentive, OCW/SURF(only in Dutch available).

Click here for more information on the call for proposals NRO (only in Dutch available).

Abolishment central draw

News item August, 2014

From the academic year 2017/2018 the central places by means of a weighted draw for numerus fixus courses will be abolished. Instead institutions will select students who want to follow a numerous fixus course. This increases the change that it is more likely that the right students is at the right study. This new, decentralized selection, will also take into account the previous educational achievements, personality traits and motivation of the aspirant student.

For this selection some national rules are recorded. For example, students are allowed to participate in the selection process for a numerus fixus course with a maximum of two times a year. It is also possible for students to participate for the same course at two different institutions. However, for the studies: Medicine, Dentistry, Physiotherapy and Dental Hygiene a students is allowed to participate in the selection process only at one institution. This is because more candidates register for this study than there are places. Students may participate up to three times in a selection for a course.

The national registration date for all programs with a fixed quota is put on 15 January. Before the 15th of April students must here if they are accepted to the course. If the result is negative, student can still sign up before the 1st of May in a program without fixed quota.

The abolishment of the draw  for a numerus fixus course is enshrined in law Quality in Diversity (only in Dutch available).

International scholarship programme

News item July, 2014

It should be made more attractive for top students from abroad to study in the Netherlands. Conversely, talented Dutch students should be encouraged to pursue studies in other countries. With this aim in mind, education minister is creating a scholarship programme that will provide 1,000 grants a year towards study costs: each grant will be worth € 5,000.

Top students from abroad boost standards, raise results (including those of Dutch students) and strengthen the international character of Dutch higher education. Over the next few years, the new scholarship programme will enable high fliers from other countries to study in the Netherlands and talented Dutch students to study abroad. Half of the cost of the scholarships will be borne by the individual educational institutions. The plans were announced in the Minister's letter outlining the government's vision on the international dimension of Dutch higher education and vocational education and training.

Students can acquire international experience by doing a placement or a minor subject course at an institution abroad. Being able to spend a fixed period of time abroad as part of the curriculum - the 'mobility window' - is a tremendous incentive for students to study in other countries. The Minister wants this facility to become a standard feature of every study programme.

However, international and intercultural experience does not necessarily require a trip abroad: students can also gain it by participating in international projects, attending lectures given by foreign speakers, and following intercultural skills modules at Dutch education institutions.

Secondary vocational education (MBO)
International experience is also becoming increasingly important for students in secondary vocational education. Although they are on the whole somewhat younger than their higher education peers and their course choices tend to be region-based, they too are finding that the business community is more internationally focused and that it requires different competencies now than 20 years ago. The Minister is therefore making € 5 million available from the educational excellence programme to facilitate international cooperation by secondary vocational education institutions. In addition, MBO students will be eligible for EU Erasmus scholarships, for which the budget will also be substantially increased.

Transnational education
Besides the extra investment announced in her letter, the Minister has said that she is planning to make it legally possible for publicly and privately funded institutions of higher education to provide transnational education. This would mean that students could follow an entire Dutch study programme abroad.

Reforms in student finance

The government reached an agreement, 28 May 2014, to  reform the student finance system. The government plans this to invest more money in better and more challenging higher education. Some changes will occur in the current system from in the year 2015/2016.
The basic grant for all students will no longer exist in the new system. The new system will include a grant for students whose parents earn less than EUR 46.000 (currently called a supplementary grant), a loan and a tuition loan. The supplementary grant will continue to exist and may reach EUR 365/month for students whose parents earn less than EUR 30.000.

Besides that the student travel scheme will continue to exist and with this reform also all students in secondary vocational education (MBO) have a right to this travel scheme (no longer depending on the age of the student). Students in MBO will have a right to this travel scheme no later than January 1, 2017.

The repayment period for students with a loan goes from 15 to 35 years, resulting in lower monthly repayments. Repaying the loan will start from an income equal to the minimum wage, rather than the current minimum subsistence level.

The changes for both the bachelor- and master phase are expected to start on September 1, 2015 for the new group of bachelor- and master students.

The government makes an amount up to a maximum of € 1 billion available for investment in higher education. That is stated in the bill for Study advance (studievoorschot) which the Cabinet has approved at the proposal of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. The most important changes in the system are:

  • the basic grant for students in higher education disappears (students in vocational secondary education retain the basic grant);
  • the supplementary grant for students in higher education rises with € 100, up to a maximum of € 365;
  • students in vocational secondary educational under the age of 18 will get a student travel scheme (student travel scheme for students in higher education will be maintained);
  • students that start a bachelor study between 2015/2016 and 2018/2019 receive vouchers worth € 2,000 for training five to ten years after graduation;
  • installment up to 4% of the monthly income (this is now 12%);
  • installment from statutory minimum wage (now based on social welfare);
  • repayment in 35 years instead of 15 years.

The bill is sent to the parliament, on the advice of the Council of State’s. The bill can now be taken into treatment, so that it is valid at the 1st  of September 2015.

Open and online higher education

In early 2014 the government presented a letter to the House of Representatives on the digitalisation of higher education, outlining its vision on open and online courses. The focus is on promoting:

  • the international reputation of Dutch higher education in a number of high-profile areas, through the development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs);
  • joint efforts by Dutch higher education institutions to improve the quality of education by introducing open and online education across the board;
  • a thorough evaluation of the experience of open and online education in the Dutch context (on condition that the results are made freely available to all Dutch institutions of higher education).

The government also wants to financially support the development towards a more open and online form of education. To this end, it will make an annual sum of €1 million available over the next few years.

In prioritising the deployment of these resources, there will be an active emphasis on major social issues and policy already deployed in the country’s key economic sectors, care and education.

Practically all Dutch higher education institutions and university medical centres are actively thinking about the role that open and online higher education could play in their organisation’s future and have already deployed activities in this field. More and more universities and HBO institutions are recording lectures on video, sharing teaching materials via iTunes U and working with open courseware. A number of universities are actively offering MOOCs or are planning to do so in the future. In addition, the Universiteit van Nederland (University of the Netherlands) has recently started offering introductory video lectures by top Dutch lecturers online. In her letter, the education minister emphatically invites universities and HBO institutions to explore the opportunities in this area and to use them as a way of profiling their education to good effect.

From 2015 till the end of 2018 the Minister of Education makes annual funds available for the promotion of open and online higher education in the Netherlands. The Minister recognizes the importance of open and online education and the Minister wants to challenge institutions to investigate what open and online education can do in their own institutions. SURF contributes to the implementation of this program. From November 2014 higher education institutions can submit a project proposal.

New website for prospective higher education students

On 11 March 2014 the Minister of Education, Culture and Science in association with the main pupil and student organisations (LAKS, JOB, ISO, LSVb and LKvV) launched a new website for anyone interested in attending a higher education course. is a one-stop shop with information on a wide range of topics such as the school subject combinations required for certain courses, how to pick the most suitable course, money matters and accommodation. A checklist guides the website’s users through all the aspects they need to think about before embarking on higher education studies. builds on existing websites and collates information from secondary schools, HBO institutions, universities and other organisations. There has long been a need for a single government-sponsored information point, and is the result. The system works with deep links, so users are immediately directed to the right information on the right website. The education minister commented: ‘Because is a one-stop shop, it can inform students more effectively. This should ultimately lead to better course choice and better performance by students.’

Other initiatives to help students choose the right course include bringing forward the enrolment date to 1 May, making it compulsory to check that students have fulfilled the admission requirements for their chosen course, and using comparative performance data on institutions and programmes.


‘Make it in the Netherlands’

In 2013 the government and partners in the education and private sectors issued the 'Make it in the Netherlands' action plan for higher education. The ’Make it in the Netherlands’  action plan was launched at 23 November 2013. The action plan includes a range of measures to attract international students, and to establish strong ties with them. It contains measures directed towards recruiting, binding and integrating foreign students, particularly in sectors faced with a high demand for employees, such as certain technical sectors. The next few years this action plan is the guiding principle for actions of the government, educational institutions, businesses and other organization in the field of bonding.

The action plan focuses inter alia on stimulating outbound student mobility, open and online education, the consistency of education and research with foreign trade and development cooperation, the start of Erasmus+ and the increasing importance of positioning international.

In future science policy attention will be paid to the internationalization of science. The aim to do this arises from the observation that a lot happens within institutions, but more focus and coordination is required.   

1. It all starts with language. To achieve these goals we intend to work on retention before, during and after students’ degree programmes. To this end, we have set up five lines of action: We plan to make it easier and more attractive for international students to learn the Dutch language, both online and in a classroom environment. We will also be helping our lecturers to improve their English.
2. From studying to career. We will take a more strategic approach to recruitment based on labour-market prospects (top sectors, science and technology), strengthen the connection between education and the labour market, expressly promote study and career as a single entity, offer more work placements and bring together all information on working in the Netherlands in a single portal. We will also provide a smoother transition to the Dutch labour market by organising career events and corporate information days.
3. Breaking the Bubble. International students find it difficult to connect with Dutch students and to put down roots in Dutch society. We plan to change this situation with extra buddies, an annual cultural connection award, through internationalisation of participation bodies and student associations, and through an active alumni policy.
4. From red tape to the red carpet. The practical matters that students need to organise will be simplified. Administrative obstacles to studying, workplacements, side jobs and entering the workforce will be removed, and procedures will be coordinated more effectively. Information on the various situations faced by international students will also be made available in English.
5. Regional results. Each region is different, requiring a tailored approach. We will therefore develop and test a specific regional approach in at least three pilot regions. As part of these regional project plans, the regional actors (higher-education institutions, businesses, government authorities, etc.) will decide what is required to attract and retain international talent for the regional labour market. Support will be provided by the national action plan, including a start-up grant to assist in setting up the initial project plan. Incorporation with the national action plan will serve to prevent fragmentation, to scale up regional initiatives and to make results available nationwide.

Quality in Diversity Strategic agenda

The completion rate is high on the agenda at many higher education institutions but the collective agreements made in recent years do not do justice to differences in their efforts and performance. It was therefore decided to make individual agreements with the institutions. This decision is part of the Quality in Diversity Strategic agenda, which translates the recommendations of the Committee for Future-Proof Higher Education into government policy. The strategic agenda’s main goals are an improvement in quality, more differentiation in education and more distinctive profiles for higher education institutions.

In September 2013 the Senate passed the Quality in Diversity agenda, which seeks to enhance the quality of higher education and improve the match between students, institutions, the world of work and society at large. It emphasises informing and guiding students in their choice of study or training, in order to boost success rates. Institutions will offer more classroom hours and will be given greater scope to specialise in teaching what they are good at. Prospective students can only make an informed choice if they have a clear picture of what an institution and course can offer them. Better information and guidance are vital, and therefore feature prominently in this legislation.

Improved access to higher education also depends on a good match between secondary vocational education (MBO) and higher professional education (HBO) and on the quality of MBO. Research has shown that the students most likely to drop out of higher education are those who opt for an unrelated post-secondary course. The government has therefore decided to pass a law allowing HBO institutions to set requirements regarding the previous education of students with an MBO background so as to improve the continuity of learning. This is enshrined in the Quality in Diversity legislation passed in the Senate in June 2013.

More choice and better information and guidance
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science wishes to reduce student dropout further. Currently, four out of ten students in higher professional education (HBO) discontinue their studies. At university, the figure is three in every ten. The agenda therefore aims to cut the high dropout rates and curb course-switching by matching students to the course that is best for them. From 2014 prospective students must register no later than 1 May for their chosen course. In this case students have enough time to participate in activities and thus make a more informed decision about their further education. This should help to reduce course-switching and dropout, and result in students getting their degree faster. Students may participate in course-choice activities such as ‘taster’ classes or guidance interviews with faculty staff. Institutions may make these activities mandatory. This scheme will enable higher professional education institutions and universities to cater more effectively for the needs of students and the labour market.

Associate degree
In addition, the associate degree, a two-year course of training for holders of a secondary vocational education (MBO) certificate, will be introduced in higher professional education. There will also be more programmes for gifted students, professional master’s degrees, practically-oriented research and short (three-year) courses to make higher professional education more appealing for those with a pre-university education (VWO) certificate. In addition, the theoretical distinction between the academic titles awarded by higher professional education institutions and universities will be abolished so that HBO graduates’ qualifications are better understood abroad.

More distinctive profiles
Educational institutions will be expected to create a more distinctive profile for themselves, making it easier for students to choose between them. Some HBO institutions may decide to focus on bachelor’s or associate degree programmes, while others may prefer to combine bachelor’s degree programmes with HBO master’s degrees and applied research. HBO institutions and universities have concluded individual performance agreements with the Ministry to that end. The Quality in Diversity Agenda creates the conditions for achieving the targets set in these agreements. Universities will align their teaching with the research priorities they have selected.

Source of all of the above articles: Site of the Government(site with these articles is only available in Dutch).