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Differences between HBO and WO

With a VWO diploma, you will be able to study at a research university or at a university of applied sciences. You should think very carefully about what kind of education would suit you best – academic education or higher vocational education. The overview below sets out the most important differences between studying at a research university and at a university of applied sciences.

Research University (WO) University of Applied Sciences (HBO)


- Abstract, analytical skills, theoretical, asking questions.

- The emphasis is on learning to look analytically and critically at the way a certain field can be approached. You learn to present convincing oral and written arguments and to draw conclusions from them.


- Concrete, practical.

- Higher vocational education trains for a specific profession. You apply your knowledge and work in a solution-oriented way. The training is directed towards the acquisition of competences.


- A university has a research duty alongside its teaching duties.

- Because lecturers often also have research tasks, new knowledge and the process of academic research are dealt with in the lectures.


- The most important duty of a university of applied science is to provide teaching.

- In addition, a great deal of attention is also paid to advisory work for businesses and institutions.

Less supervision

- Own initiative, self-discipline, independence.

- Universities not only have small-scale tutorials and projects, but also lectures for large groups of students. There are greater demands on your self-discipline, but you also have more freedom to make your own choices in your study programme.

More supervision

- The contacts with students are often more intensive. There are usually more contact hours, including compulsory ones, such as lectures and work groups.

Relatively high teaching speed

- You will be expected to be able to quickly process and understand the large amount of teaching material, often in English.

Relatively relaxed teaching speed

- More time is spent on each topic.

Internship or research

- You will round off your degree programme with an internship or a research project.


- You can go on an internship during the degree programme.

Professions less clear in advance, options for specializations

- After finishing your degree programme you can usually choose from various possible professions in the fields of research, management, administration and policy. Personnel ads often ask for an ‘academic level of thinking’ rather than for specific knowledge.

Professions usually clear in advance

- After you finish, you will usually end up in a white-collar job.

Students of both types of degree programme have a good starting position on the labour market. If you would like more information about the degree programmes or the differences between the various programmes, please contact one of the study advisors via Student Support Desk .

Are you interested in one of our Bachelor's or Master's programmes? To help you make the correct study choice, the Faculty of Economics and Business organises a wide rage of information activities. Come join us!

Last modified:15 July 2021 2.10 p.m.
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