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What is the difference between a research university (WO) and a university of applied sciences (HBO)?

There are two types of higher education in the Netherlands: research-oriented (WO) and profession-oriented (HBO):

Research-oriented education (wetenschappelijk onderwijs, WO) is traditionally offered by research universities, such as Erasmus University which Rotterdam School of Management is a part of.

  • Programmes at research universities focus on theoretical aspects of the field of study.
  • Prepares students for undertaking independent research.
  • Lead to a bachelor’s or master’s degree. At research universities you can also pursue a PhD degree.
  • Fewer contact hours and more course material to study independently.
  • A Bachelor's program at a research university requires the completion of 180 credits (three years of study) and graduates obtain the degree of Bachelor of Arts, of Science, or of Laws (BA/BSc/LLB), depending on the discipline.

Higher professional education (hoger beroepsonderwijs, HBO) is offered by universities of applied sciences (hogescholen)

  • Programmes at universities of applied sciences prepare students for particular professions
  • Tend to be more practically-oriented.
  • They lead to either a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  • More contact hours (e.g. lectures / tutorials) during which course material is taught in a classical setting.
  • A Bachelor's degree in the applied arts and sciences requires 240 credits (four years of study); in most cases, graduates obtain a degree indicating the field of study (for example, Bachelor of Engineering, B Eng, or Bachelor of Nursing, B Nursing).

More information on the Dutch higher education system can be found on the Study in Holland website or you can check out this video made by Nuffic. 

Last update:
Thursday, 17 September 2020

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