Joint Programmes

International joint programmes contribute to the development of students' international skills. As well as being of great value to the international job market, students with broadly developed talents and international experience are also highly valuable to the Dutch job market. Furthermore, the programmes increase the visibility and optimise the positioning of Dutch universities on the international stage. Joint programmes are extremely effective in promoting new strategic partnerships with foreign institutions.


Amendments to the Higher Education and Research Act (Wet op het hoger onderwijs en wetenschappelijk onderzoek, WHW) with regard to offering joint, double and multiple-degree programmes

Dutch universities are offering more and more degree programmes in collaboration with universities abroad. Since January 2018, the legal possibilities for Dutch higher education institutions to offer joint programmes in collaboration with one or more international institutions have been expanded and simplified. This development conforms to the recommendations from VSNU's final report on joint programmes (2014). The new legislation has expanded the definition of joint programmefrom just joint degree programmes to joint, double and multiple-degree programmes. This legislation will enable the institutions to proceed with joint or double/multiple-degree programmes without any exchange of funds. In order to reduce the administrative burden, joint programme students can be required to enrol in the Dutch institution for the entire study duration. The process of turning a single degree into a joint degree programme has also been shortened: Dutch institutions are now allowed to modify up to 40% of the curriculum without losing their accreditation. In these cases, the macro-efficiency check will lapse, and the modified joint programme can be included in the regular programme accreditation by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatieorganisatie, NVAO). This fact does not apply to the accreditation of joint degree programmes that are entirely new. See the Act of 7 June 2017, Sections 7.3c through 7.3g, pages 4–5.


NVAO accreditation protocols

In June 2010, NVAO developed protocols with possibilities and conditions for the assessment of joint degrees in the Netherlands: the protocol for existing joint degree programmes in the Netherlands (accreditation) and the protocol for new joint degree programmes in the Netherlands (assessment of new degree programmes). Dutch higher education institutions can make use of these protocols when submitting applications.


The European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes

Under the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes, a single quality assessment will suffice for programmes to obtain accreditation in all the countries of the European Higher Education Area in which programme accreditation is mandatory. In many cases, Dutch degree programmes that are being taught in collaboration with one or more institutions in other countries are faced with different national accreditation requirements. This situation hampers the development of joint programmes, whereas such programmes are desirable in the purview of internationalisation. For this reason, NVAO has contributed greatly to a European solution.

This solution consists of the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes, which was adopted by the Ministers of the European Higher Education Area in May 2015. The Ministers renewed their commitment to the implementation of the European Approach in May 2018.

This European Approach comprises a single framework with standards and procedures for the assessment of international joint degree programmes. Such joint degree programmes, which are taught by institutions in several countries, may carry either a single joint degree and qualification or several national degrees and qualifications. 

This framework enables all quality assurance agencies included on the European Register to assess joint degree programmes. The Ministers have agreed that the outcomes of assessments conducted on the basis of the European framework will be recognised in all countries of the European Higher Education Area. NVAO will preferably assess joint degree programmes on the basis of the European Framework.

More information can be found on NVAO's website.