Plan your study
Before you start your studies in the Netherlands, it is good to know that there are two types of institutes of higher education in the lowlands: universities of applied sciences (hbo) and academic universities. The main differences are the previous education required to get in, and whether the education offered is aimed at acquiring the skills needed for a specific profession or more geared towards academic research.
University of Applied Sciences
Universities of Applied Sciences specialise in the practical application of arts and sciences. You will be trained for a specific role in business or another professional field you’re interested in, like the governmental sphere or the non-profit sector. During your studies, you’ll develop the skills necessary to take on your professional role within society. A study programme at a university of applied sciences usually has a nominal duration of four years. This type of education is based on theory, which is also explicitly taught, but the focus is on practical training and experience. Studying at a university of applied sciences is characterised by internships and projects that you carry out on your own or with fellow students, sometimes for external clients.
As opposed to universities of applied sciences, academic universities mostly focus on theoretical education. You will bear more personal responsibility for your projects than a student in a university of applied sciences would. Throughout the courses and projects, the emphasis is on scientific research, which you will mostly carry out on your own. Lectures will be held on campus but will often also be available digitally. A university education primarily teaches students how to think scientifically. It’s less aimed at any specific profession. The academic frame of mind and intellectual ability of graduated academics makes them widely employable.
Good to know!
Sometimes a degree from a research university is seen as a higher accolade than a degree from a university of applied sciences, mostly because the educational requirements for enrolment are stricter. It’s not true to say, however, that a degree obtained from an academic university is ‘better’ or ‘more valuable’ than a degree from a university of applied sciences, and vice versa — these are truly two different types of education. When it comes to making the right choice between applied or academic higher education, it’s all about your personal preference and the (professional) future you’re striving for. Do you want to become a lawyer or a psychologist? In that case you might want to get a degree from an academic university. If you have your mind set on entering a more practical profession, like that of a legal assistant or (primary school) teacher, you’ll need a degree from a university of applied sciences. There are also plenty of subjects that are taught at both types of universities, like business and communication for instance. If you’re interested in subjects like these, you might want to ask yourself whether you prefer a more hands-on or more theoretical approach.