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Netherlands establishes standalone Associate Degrees

The Netherlands is upgrading its Associate Degrees (AD) giving them an independent status in the higher education system.  With this move the Dutch Higher education system receives a new level, as the requirement for ADs to be linked to an HBO-Bachelor is lifted.

With the Ministerial Council agreeing on a bill that followed a proposal by Dutch Education, Culture and Science Minister Jet Bussemaker, the AD now receives an autonomous, stand-alone status alongside the traditional University of Applied sciences or HBO-Bachelor/Master and Research University or WO-Bachelor/Master degrees.

The AD existed as a two year track (120ECTS) inseparably linked with a HBO-Bachelor, catering mainly to the needs of students in vocational education and those employed, or adult learners looking to continue education without pursuing a full length Bachelors programme. By decoupling the AD there is now more developmental room for the degree to advance its pedagogic concept, build a distinct identity and the emergence of diverse ADs supporting greater study choice.

Going forward, ADs are expected to not only hold an autonomous status but to also be independently accredited - currently recognition standards follow the respective bachelors an AD is linked to.

With the establishment of independent Associate Degrees, the Netherlands moves forward in making room in the higher education model for alternative learning pathways, raising the status of vocational education and promoting lifelong learning.   

Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science – Press release (only in Dutch)