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High quality education

VU Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university.

We provide an inspirational educational setting in which our students can develop their potential to the fullest. Learn more about how we encourage safe and open communication in a virtual reality classroom.

The programmes are of a high quality, the atmosphere is very conducive to study and the teaching staff are easily accessible.

Quality of education

We have a sterling reputation for the fine quality of our teaching. You work in relatively small groups, in which considerable emphasis is placed on interaction and a personal approach. The teaching is well-organised. This is reflected, for instance, in the clear structure of the study programmes.

Private or public?

VU Amsterdam is recognised by the Dutch Ministry of Education and is therefore partially government-funded. Under the Dutch system, the government subsidises recognised universities on the basis of their student numbers and also sets limits and guidelines for the tuition fees that these universities are allowed to charge. This ensures access to quality higher education for all Dutch citizens, rich or poor.

Academic culture

It is good to be aware that each society has its own educational style. This may of course differ per institution, but to give you an idea of the overall Dutch educational style, we have listed its most important aspects below:

  • Equality of all human beings, regardless of differences in race, status, religion or age. Hierarchy is limited in Dutch society and organizations, including educational institutions. Lecturers and students are considered equal; the only relevant differences relate to their respective roles as lecturer or student and to expertise, which the lecturer already has and the student does not.
  • Relative lack of competition. Since everyone has the same rights and equal chances, including access to higher education, the level of competition between students is low.
  • Rules are rules. Dutch society runs on rules. Exceptions to the rules, particularly for individuals, are very rare. For the Dutch, rules are there to guarantee fair and equal treatment for all.
  • Own opinions. Children are encouraged to develop their own opinions and ideas at a very young age and to take a critical view of things. In other cultures, students may have to master existing knowledge before their own opinion is appreciated.
  • Honesty and politeness. Politeness is important and putting pressure on people to get them to do something for you will not be appreciated (or effective for that matter). On the other hand, saying what you really think is highly valued.
  • Active learning. The Dutch believe that active learning is the best. Selective and critical reading is stimulated, as is active participation in class. Practice and application are required to complete the learning process.
  • Independence: Dutch society is individualistic. The main view is that people are responsible for their own lives and for making their own choices. This is also expected in higher education: students are expected to study rather independently and take care of themselves. This does not mean the Dutch are incapable of offering help. It is just that we do not expect you to be in need of help unless you ask. So, the magic word is ASK!

Dutch education system

The overall quality of Dutch higher education is among the best in the world. No other country has the same percentage of universities in the top 200. The Dutch higher education sector makes a distinction between universities of applied sciences and research universities. VU Amsterdam is one of 14 research universities in the Netherlands that offers academic education and Master’s degree programmes.

What to expect during lectures

The mentioned values and beliefs (See 'Academic Culture') are also reflected in the relationship between students and their professors and in lectures/discussion groups: 

  • Relation lecturer-student. This relation is quite informal and non-hierarchical. Students are expected to take care of themselves. If students don’t raise an issue, lecturers will assume that everything is going well.
  • Relation student-student. Dutch students operate quite individually; As far as grades are concerned, competition between students hardly plays a role, and most students don’t know their class ranking.
  • Interaction in class. Most classes in Dutch higher education are interactive. Questions and discussions during lectures and other classes are common. Interaction between students in groups (e.g. on projects) is also very common.
  • Aim of learning. Students are taught to become independent thinkers and develop their own ideas and opinions. The educational goal is for students to acquire sufficient knowledge, a critical attitude, problem-solving skills, and the ability to present and defend their work. Memorizing and understanding are seen as valuable techniques, but only as a first step in learning. A large proportion of nearly all courses is spent on practical work (writing papers, projects, cases).


VU Amsterdam is fully recognised by the Dutch Ministry of Education as a research university. All degree programmes at VU Amsterdam are either accredited by or in the process of being accredited by NVAO, the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders. This body was established by international treaty and guarantees the quality of higher education in the Netherlands and Flemish-speaking Belgium through the accreditation of study programmes.