Dutch education system

The Dutch higher education sector draws a distinction between higher professional education (hoger beroepsonderwijs, hbo) and academic education (wetenschappelijk onderwijs). The former takes place at institutes of higher professional education, while the latter, together with academic research, is the province of the universities. VU Amsterdam is one of 14 universities in the Netherlands at which you can receive an academic education and obtain a Master’s degree. These two strands of higher education are not entirely separate, however: universities and institutes of higher professional education often work together in the field of teaching.

Higher education in the Netherlands is structured according to the Bachelor’s-Master’s system, in which students embark on a one or two-year Master’s programme, preceded by a Bachelor’s programme which usually takes three years. Although you can embark on a career upon completing your Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree offers opportunities for further specialization and increases your chances of success in the job market. After graduating from the Master’s programme, some students continue their studies to obtain a PhD.

Website Study in the Netherlands

Structure and duration of the programmes

Full time Bachelor's programmes are 3-year university programmes or 4 year professional education programmes (HBO) requiring students to accumulate 60 ECTS-credits a year. A 4-year Dutch HBO Bachelor's qualifies for a HBO Master's but does not automatically qualify for a Master's at the university.

A Dutch university Bachelor's degree - or its equivalent - is at least required for admission to a Master's (1 or 2 years: 60 – 120 ECTS-credits). If you successfully complete a university Bachelor's programme at VU Amsterdam and apply for a related Master's at the same university, it is possible to enter the Master's without further requirements (except language conditions). If you want admission to a Master's with another Bachelor's degree, the faculty is allowed to ask further entrance requirements and might make a selection of the candidates.

Registration at the university takes place per academic year starting on 1 September and ending on 31 August.

For people with a recognised Master's degree, VU Amsterdam offers the possibility of earning a doctorate, or the Anglo-Saxon PhD degree. The process of earning a doctorate normally takes four years or more and consists of conducting independent research and writing a dissertation. For more information about PhD's, use the following link: How to obtain a PhD.

Time-table, credits and grades

Academic year

All programmes at VU Amsterdam follow the same time-table structure. The academic year starts in the first week of September and is divided into two semesters. Each semester consists of three periods of 8+8+4 weeks. Examinations are held at the end of each semester (January and June), or at the end of the eight- or four-week period. Re-sits usually take place in the last two weeks of August. For precise information on programmes and dates, see the information provided by the faculty.

VU calendar/opening hours


On VU Amsterdam, credits are listed according to the European Credits Transfer System (ECTS). The ECTS credits system is based on student workload, which includes contact hours and time spent completing papers and assignments and preparing for examinations. In this system 1 ECTS credit point represents 28 hours of study (including attendance at classes). A full-time student is expected to earn 60 ECTS credits in one academic year, and 30 credits in one semester.


The Dutch grading system is generally based on a mark between 1 (minimum) and 10 (maximum). A grade of 6.0 or more stands for ‘pass’, a grade of less than 6.0 for ‘fail’.


ECTS %Quality AssessmentECTS gradeDutch grade
10%Excellent/Very goodA8.0 - 10.0
25%GoodB7.5 - 7.9
30%More than satisfactoryC7.0 - 7.4
25%SatisfactoryD6.5 - 6.9
10%SufficientE6.0 - 6.4
FailF0.0 - 5.0


All degree programmes of VU Amsterdam are accredited by NVAO. If the procedure for accreditation of a programme not yet is completed, this is indicated in the description of te programme.
NVAO (Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatieorganisatie) is the Accreditation Organisation of The
Netherlands and Flanders.
NVAO is entrusted by law to accredit all existing bachelor’s and master’s degree courses and to
validate new study programmes at government-funded higher education institutions as well as
institutions approved (but not funded) by the Dutch government.

For more information on NVAO, please see their website:
NVAO website