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Last updated: 12/28/2022, 11:27 AM

After you finish high school, you can start studying. You can study in the Netherlands at three different levels. On this page you can read more about those levels. You will also find information about how to pay for your studies.

Education levels

Intermediate vocational education (MBO)

  • An MBO program trains you in a profession in 4 years.

  • In intermediate vocational education, the emphasis is on hands-on learning.

  • MBO courses are a combination of classes and work or internship.

  • After your MBO, you can work or go to college for HBO.

  • Sometimes you can combine MBO education with an integration course.

  • In MBO you get more guidance than in HBO.

Higher vocational education (HBO)

  • HBO educates you in 4 years to become a professional, for a field or profession.

  • In HBO, you learn practical and theoretical knowledge.

  • Applying knowledge in practice is key.

  • You also do an internship to gain experience.

  • More independence is expected in HBO than in MBO.

Academic education (WO)

  • The bachelorundefineds degree program at college trains you to become a researcher or scientist in 3 years.

  • At university, you learn mostly theoretical knowledge and research.

  • There is less emphasis on practice.

  • At university, an internship is optional.

  • After the bachelorundefineds degree program, you can pursue a masterundefineds degree program.

Prerequisites for studying at college or university

  • For all study programs in Dutch, you must pass the State Examination NT2-II. 

  • English-language study programs require you to take an IELTS or TOEFL exam.

  • If you earned a degree in your home country, you can have it assessed by the International Credential Evaluation (IDW). Based on that assessment, the HBO institute or college will decide whether this is sufficient.

  • If you do not have a diploma or if your diploma is insufficient, you must take an exam: the 21+ entrance test.

A transition year is a year in which you prepare to study at an HBO institute or college. You improve your Dutch language skills and receive subjects in preparation for your studies. Inquire from the education institute or the Universitair Asiel Fonds (UAF) about whether you can do a transition year.

Study costs

You can get student loans to study if you: 

  • Have an asylum or regular indefinite residence permit.

  • Are between 18 and 30 years old.

  • Will begin studies, such as MBO, HBO or university.

At the Dutch Office of Education (DUO) you can find out if you can get study funding. They will also tell you how to apply for study funding. 

Please note: Study funding means that you borrow or get money from the Dutch government to study. You have to pay back part of the study funding. 

Please note: if you are over 30 and under 55, you can also borrow money from DUO for tuition or fees, under certain conditions.

Helpful organizations

These organizations can help you, for example with information or (part of) the cost of your studies:

  • Universitair Asiel Fonds (UAF)


  • Nuffic

  • Studiekeuze 123