Educational system

Explanation of the degree stucture, credits and grading, level and mode of study, academic calendar etc.

Dutch higher education

The Netherlands has two main types of regular higher education:

  • Universities
  • Universities of professional education ("HBO" or "Hoger Beroepsonderwijs") 
The universities focus on the independent practice of research-oriented work in an academic or professional setting. The universities of professional education are more practically-oriented, preparing students directly for specific careers. A smaller branch of education is provided by International Education Institutes, which offer programmes designed especially for foreign students. The VWO secondary school diploma qualifies students for admission to a research university.

Leiden University is university of the first type and fully recognised by the Dutch Ministy of Education.

Degree structure

Leiden University awards the bachelor's, master's and doctorate (PhD) degrees. The highest degree awarded is the PhD.

The following degrees are awarded, depending on the type of programme: 

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Master of Arts
  • Master of Science
  • Master of Laws
  • PhD (the "doctorate")

The bachelor's programmes take three years; a master's degree takes an additional one or two years of full-time study. Earning a doctorate takes at least 4 years of study and consists of independent and original research under the supervision of a professor.

Non-degree (certificate)
Exchange and Study Abroad students are awarded a certificate for the courses for which they have completed the course work and/or examination. Upon return to the home university, students must not forget to give their Leiden University co-ordinator the final list of the courses they have taken in order to complete their transcript.

Mode of study: part-time / full-time

At Leiden University it is possible to study full-time or part-time for many undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes. 

The subjects of a part-time programme are spread out over a longer period. A part-time programme therefore takes longer to complete than the full-time equivalent, but allows the time for students to work or fulfil other activities in addition to their studies.

Part-time bachelor's programmes
Leiden offers part-time possibilities several bachelors’ programmes. A bachelor's degree will normally take about 4 and a half years part-time, or 3 years full-time to complete. Full-time students can expect about 40 hours per week, and part-time students 25 hours. These hours are an indication of the course load and cannot be regarded as definitive. 

Required study progress
With more time available to study, a student can complete the programme at a faster pace. In some cases, studying at a somewhat slower pace is a possibility, but part-time bachelor's students are required to have completed 40 credit points (ECTS) after the first two years of study, and should have obtained their first degree (“propedeuse”) in three years. If this requirement cannot be met and there are no mitigating circumstances, students may be barred from continuing their study in Leiden ("binding study recommendation"). It is generally possible tailor a programme to one's available study hours in consultation with a Study Advisor.      
Part-time master's programmes
A master's degree programme will normally take 1 or 2 years full-time, or one and a half or 3 years part-time to complete. The duration of the programme usually depends on the amount of time a student has available to study.

Overview of studies and subjects you can follow at Leiden University: e-Prospectus   
Note for international students
Students who need an entrance permit (MVV) or residence permit for the purpose of study, cannot study part-time. Full-time study is a requirement for obtaining an MVV or a residence permit for the purpose of study. 

Credit system & grading

The credit point system
The course load is given in ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credit points.
1 ECTS equals 28 hours of study. This includes preparing for and attending classes, reading books, writing papers, studying for tests and exams etc. Leiden students do not receive credits for courses they have failed. An academic year consists of 60 credit points.

The Dutch grading system runs from 1 (very poor) to 10 (outstanding). Grades between 5 and six are usually rounded up from 5.5, which means that 5.4 is a fail and 5.5. a pass. However whether a grade signifies a pass or not is the prerogative of the board of examiners of the department. Grades 9 and 10 are rarely given.
More about the Dutch grading system

Course level structure specific to Leiden University

The level of an individual course is indication with a number ranging from 100 to 600 as follows: 

Level 100
Introductory course, building directly on the knowledge acquired during per-university education.
Characteristics: Teaching based on a general textbook or syllabus, pedagogically structured, with exercises and tests; tutor-guided seminars; accents in study material and examples in lectures.
Level 200 Introductory course, requiring no specific prior knowledge but expecting experience with independent study.
Characteristics: Textbooks or other teaching material of a more or less introductory nature; lectures e.g. as capita selecta ; independent study is expected.
Level 300 Course for advanced students, prerequisite level 100 or 200.
Characteristics: Books used are not necessarily written specifically for teaching; independent study; independent application of subject matter to solve new problems.
Level 400 Specialised course, prerequisite level 200 or 300.
Characteristics: Use of professional literature (articles in journals) next to textbooks; examination (partly) through a limited study, a lecture or a paper. A component at this level may to some extent also be part of a master’s programme.
Level 500 Course with an academic orientation, entrance requirements at master’s level.
Characteristics: Study of advanced professional literature meant for researchers; tests aimed at problem solving by a paper or original research, with independent critical reflection on the course materials.
Level 600 Highly specialized course, prerequisite level 400 or 500.
Characteristics: Topical research papers; stat-of-the-art academic thinking; oral presentation of an original contribution (thesis) dealing with a yet unsolved problem.

Semester system / Academic calendar

The Academic year runs from 1 September - 31 August  Most faculties use a semester system. This means that the academic year is divided into 2 semesters: September through January, and February through June. At some departments each semester is divided into 2 "blocks". 
Academic calendar

Last Modified: 29-08-2013