Types of universities

Applied sciences (hbo) or research university (wo), what are the similarities and differences?

In the Netherlands there are two types of Bachelor’s degrees: hbo (higher vocational education) and wo (research university). The bachelor’s diplomas of higher vocational education and the university offer you the same title, but are not identical. Shortly, these are the most important differences:

  • Higher vocational education is more vocationally oriented, while university studies are more focused on academic education
  • Applied science studies continue for four years and consist of 240 ECTS (study credits). University degrees, on the other hand, are three years and allow for 180 ECTS.
  • In many cases, there is a difference in the official language of the program (higher vocational degrees are usually in Dutch, academic degrees in English) and the ratio of Dutch and international students

A higher vocational bachelor’s diploma does not automatically grant you access to a related master’s degree at university. It is usually possible to enroll in a pre-master’s program, to eliminate your shortages in theoretical knowledge and practical skills. If a higher vocational institution and a university agreed on collaboration, it might even be possible to already take academically oriented courses while you are still enrolled in your bachelor’s degree for higher vocational education.

What does your study program look like?

The biggest difference between higher vocational education and university is the level of independence and responsibility. At instructions for higher vocational education, you are more extensively guided in making certain decisions, as you will be provided with resources. As a university student, you will be encouraged to choose your own study track. Moreover, higher vocational education tracks are usually standard and less adjustable to your own needs and desires. At university, you are partly able to choose the academic path you prefer. Of course, there are mandatory courses, but these are often the courses that are related to the field you have chosen to graduate in. The university also provides a wide variety of opportunities and choices related to your own educational wishes and desires.

Methods of education

When you choose for a degree at a university, you will be taking courses that will consist of both lectures and seminars. Lectures are more focused on theoretical approaches, which you will eventually apply during seminars. Depending on your study, other teaching methods might be used as well. A higher vocational education tracks does not explicitly distinguish lectures and seminars, because these are frequently related to one another.

The courses that a university offers are often taken by many students: students for whom the course is obligatory to complete their major, re-takers and students that major in a different study and for whom the course is a minor. In contest, higher vocational education courses are often only accessible for students of a specific year.

Furthermore, the university requires you to be responsible for your own academic progress. This also counts for your study pace: you are not obliged to graduate within a fixed amount of years. When you are craving a more in-depth academic development and to broaden your horizon, the university offers an extensive variety of programs, such as honor’s programs or interdisciplinary student teams.

What suits me best?

It is surely difficult to respond to this question with a cookie-cut answer.

However, there are a few preferences and traits that distinct students who attend higher vocational education from those who are enrolled at university. What satisfies many higher vocational students is the degree of personal attention and guidance, while university students value their academic independence. Another trait that distinguishes the students is their personal preference for engaging in either theory or practice. The majority of higher vocational students enjoy applying theory to a tangible case, but university students are more likely to elaborate on existing knowledge or to gain new and in-depth knowledge.

Obviously, there are also similarities between a higher vocational student and students that attend university. Both are interested in engineering and technology, are willing to contribute to a sustainable society and might join forces to deliver better results. And if it is not enough, they are both driven and motivated develop and improve themselves.

The Eindhoven University of Technology campus not only enthusiastically embraces students who opt for a university degree, but also students that go to higher vocational schools or trade schools.

What will be my title once I graduate?

Obviously, more titles can be obtained with a degree from university rather than higher vocational education. Graduating from higher vocational education provides three degrees: baccalaureus (bc), engineer (eng.), or MSc, after completing an additional master’s program. Baccalaureus is used when you graduate from an applied science study that is not similar to engineering or physics. This title is hardly ever used. Engineer, however, is much more common. Any student who completes a program with physical and technical elements.

More titles can be obtained through university. Depending on the field of study, a student will be a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), or Bachelor of Laws (LLB). At a master’s level, this will be a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc) or Master of Laws (LLM).

The titled of PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) will be granted to doctoral students after they completed an enhanced and lengthy scientific research. An additional title that is linked to the university is EngD (Engineering Doctorate). This is a career-oriented, post grad program. Your technical expertise and professional skills will be developed and broadened within two years, concluding with a technical design assignment.