Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Campus Fryslân
Header image Campus Fryslân blog

So what will my year look like in the Master's programme? The Academic Year Structure

Date:20 July 2020
Author:Sinead Walsh
So what will my year look like?
So what will my year look like?

Every country has its own education system and ways of doing things. When coming from abroad it can be difficult to adjust to doing things differently than you have done in whatever educational setting you were under in the past. 

The main thing that took me by surprise was the fact that our year is split into two semesters which each contain two blocks. Thus you have four blocks in the year. Each block is eight to ten weeks long. You normally have seven or eight weeks of classes, with lectures, tutorials, practicals and all the rest of them. With a week or two of exams and deadlines after all the lectures etc. 

The European Credit Transfer System [ECTS] was developed by the European Commission of the European Union in order to provide common procedures that guarantee academic recognition of courses completed abroad. It provides a way of measuring and comparing learning achievements and transferring these achievements from one institution to the other. A standard university year in Europe is 60 ECTS. Due to the fact that our year is split into four parts, you [usually, but not always] will do three courses worth 5 ECTS each, thus 15 ECTS a block equating to 60 ECTS per year. 

Semester 1

Semester 1

Semester 2

 Semester 2

Block 1

Block 2

Block 3

Block 4

Sept - Nov 

Nov - Jan  

Feb - April

April - June

15 ECTS 

15 ECTS 

15 ECTS 


European Credits [EC’s] are values allocated to course units to describe the students’ workload required to complete them. They reflect the quantity of work each course requires in relation to the total quantity of work required to complete a full year of academic study at the institution, i.e. the sum of lectures, practical work, seminars, private work - either in the library or at home - as well as examinations and/or other assessment activities. It may be important to know that one EC is supposed to equate to 28 hours of work. 

Grading system

Another important thing to know is that in The Netherlands you are graded out of ten. Ten being the highest and most rare of grades and one being the lowest. The passing rate is 55%, that is you must get 5.5 out of 10 in order to pass any exam. Once you pass the exam you will receive the 5 ECs that the course is worth. People then often ask, “so why should I bother trying to get a 7 or 8 or higher if I’m going to get my 5ECs anyway?”. Well, your Grade Point Average [GPA] will be calculated on your overall grades, not on how many credits you received. Thus, when you go to apply for a masters programme or something else, they may ask for your GPA and obviously, a GPA of 8 is better than a GPA of 6. 

This system of working in blocks can be tiring as you have smaller but more intense bouts of busyness and studying. However, this also means that you delve deep into a topic even though it is done over a short amount of time. 

From week to week you will have different work to prepare for your class. This could be reading an article [or two], preparing discussion questions or maybe even doing some homework or research. It’s important and very helpful to keep up to date with your weekly work. I know this is probably what everyone says and aims to do but I mean it when I say that it will make your life much easier and much less stressful at the end of the block. 

Additionally, if you want to have a proper look at your upcoming calendar you can check out this link, choose your programme and see the classes, exams and events for the upcoming year. Have you any questions as to how the year is structured or what you will be doing? Always feel free to contact us on Facebook, Instagram or via email at!

About the author

Sinead Walsh
Hey there! My name is Sinead Walsh. I grew up in Ireland and I'm in the process of figuring out life as an international student in the Netherlands. Aside from an interest in politics and the environment, I am currently studying an MSc in Sustainable Entrepreneurship at Campus Fryslân. You'll see me around the campus almost daily so don't be afraid to come up for a chat any time!