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, more practical projects and group work.
  • 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. Bachelor's degrees from both types of education lead to a level 6 qualification in the National Qualification Framework and are therefore equal in level.