The university system in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has 14 research universities that are accredited and funded by the government. At these universities, education is provided and research is carried out. Six universities offer the full range of disciplines, three universities are more specialised and three universities focus specifically on technical studies (TU Delft, TU Eindhoven and Universiteit Twente).  Wageningen University focuses mainly on food, health and agriculture, and the Open Universiteit Nederland on distance education for ‘lifelong learning’. Every Dutch university has programmes for both graduate and undergraduate students. The system is split between Bachelor’s degrees and Master's degrees, after which there is the potential to go on to study for a PhD.

University funding
A specific characteristic of the Dutch system is the public nature of the universities. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) plays a major role in their funding. Due to its strong affinity with the agricultural sector Wageningen University is the only university to receive funding from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. The universities receive funding based on their performance, such as the number of first year students enrolled and the number of Bachelor’s and Master's degrees awarded.

State funding is one of roughly three flows of funds on which the institutions can draw. In addition to direct government funding, universities receive funding from the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), via specific projects or researchers. This funding is for the most part distributed competitively. In technical terms this is known as the "second flow of funds". The third flow of funds encompasses the universities' other revenues, e.g. from contract education or research, 'collecting box' funds, and grants from ministries or the European Union. In that context, Dutch researchers are given, for example, a budget from the European programme Horizon2020 and grants from the European Research Council (ERC).

Lastly, the institutions receive funding in the form of the tuition fees paid by students. The level of these is set by the government. If a programme does not receive government funding, students pay an amount in fees that in many cases is higher than the government-set tuition fee; this amount - the so-called 'instellingscollegegeld' - is set by the institutions themselves.


Last updated on 04-03-2016