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Applied science vs. research university


The respected international reputation of the Dutch higher education sector is built on its binary system, with a distinction between research-oriented universities and professional higher education institutions (universities of applied sciences). Research universities, like the UG, offer highly academic, research-oriented programmes focused on specific subjects. Universities of applied sciences, on the other hand, are more practical and profession-oriented, designed for those looking to enter a particular career type upon graduation.

There are 14 research universities and 41 universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands. A Bachelor's degree usually takes three years to complete at a research university as opposed to four years at a university of applied sciences. For more information on the main differences between research universities and universities of applied sciences, see below.

Program Structure & Admission

To apply for an undergraduate degree at a Dutch research university you must have completed six years of university preparatory education in the Netherlands (VWO) or have an equivalent international diploma. A Bachelor's degree programme at a research university in the Netherlands generally requires three years to complete. These undergraduate degree programmes are research-oriented, with a focus on developing research- and critical thinking skills. Upon completion of the programme, you will receive a Bachelor of Arts, -Science, or -Law degree.

You can be admitted to a Dutch university of applied sciences after completing five years of senior general secondary education (HAVO) in the Netherlands or with an equivalent international diploma. These Bachelor's degree programmes take four years to complete, including a one-year work placement. Such degree programmes focus on the acquisition of practical skills and specific professional competencies. After completing the programme, you will receive a degree in your chosen field of study (e.g a Bachelor of Nursing).

Teaching Style & Learning Outcome

If you attend a research university you will be primarily focused on the ‘why’ aspect of academic questions. You will learn to approach topics from an abstract perspective and apply analytical skills. In addition, you will learn to present convincing oral and written arguments and reflect on the results of your academic research. During your studies, you will have less direct supervision outside of the classroom, while having a lot of freedom to design your own study programme. In general, the teaching style is fast-paced and you will have to be able to read a lot of academic texts, often in English.

Courses offered at a university of applied sciences will usually address the ‘how’ aspect of educational topics. Your education will focus on teaching you concrete and practical professional skills, which you will have to apply in practice in order to prepare you for a specific profession. Usually, you will have more (compulsory) contact hours with your lecturer and, in general, more time is spent on each topic when compared with a research university.

Career Prospects & Further Studies

Many of our graduates find high-profile jobs in fields where an academic style of thinking is required, such as research, management, administration or policy-making. Graduating from a research university is a good investment in your career: the total long-term annual income of research university graduates in the Netherlands is nearly 50% higher than that of graduates of universities of applied sciences. What’s more, if you would like to continue your educational career after your Bachelor’s degree, you can immediately pursue a Master’s degree. For more information on career opportunities, you can check out our career services or read some of our alumni stories.

Most graduates from a university of applied sciences continue to work in the profession in which they specialised during their studies. If you hold a Bachelor's degree from a university of applied sciences and want to enrol for a Master’s degree at a research university, you can only be admitted after completing a Pre-Masters programme. This can take between six to 12 months.

Are you an international student? Please visit our pages for internationals.

Laatst gewijzigd:03 december 2019 14:30