The Student Room Group

Avoid Universities of Applied Sciences

Hi,

This advice goes both for the Netherlands and Belgium. When I was 18, I studied at a university of applied sciences in the Netherlands. I did that for a year and the experience was horrendous. I transferred to another applied sciences uni and it was equally bad. Finally, at 20, made the right choice and went to an academic university, and the experience was fantastic.

Online, when discussing the differences, most websites claim that one is geared towards preparing you for the workplace, and the other is for people wanting to pursue more academic careers. This is completely false. The quality of the education provided is night and day. And this isn't just my opinion, but that of everyone I've talked to who also experienced both types of education.

The reason for this is that there are 3 high school "levels" in the Netherlands. Only the highest level allows students to go straight to an academic university after graduating, while the other two only allow students to move onto a lower level of education, including university of applied sciences/colleges.

Since Dutch students at the university of applied sciences/colleges/HBOs are a lot of times extremely young (as young as 16) and had very shallow high school educations, these HBO universities have to make up for that. How do they do that? Well, the courses given are, in terms of difficulty and content, equivalent to middle school courses.

When I transferred to the second HBO, I went straight to the second year, and one of my courses was more dumbed down than an introduction to politics class I took when I was 13. All of the other courses were like this. It made me feel scammed, as I wanted to learn and grow, and not just gain credits for sitting around in a classroom.

The assignments are also mostly group assignments where everyone receives the same grade. I know people who passed the first year who showed up like 5 times and failed all exams. The group grades they got from others doing their work were used to compensate for the failed grades. The school does it automatically too, you don't even have to sign up for the free pass.

Many HBO universities seem to offer courses in niche topics that you can't find anywhere else. This is what drew me to them in the first place. But in reality, by picking a more generalised degree at an academic university, I learned way more about those niche topics I was interested in and a variety of related topics that helped me further my understanding of my chosen branch of study. Don't let their marketing trick you, you will learn more by googling the names of the courses they offer than by attending them.

There is a reason why most universities in the Netherlands require students to do a pre-master's if they want to pursue a master's, it's because they know you don't have to develop any skills or knowledge to graduate from an HBO study.

Don't be tricked into thinking your HBO degree will be equivalent to that of a VO/academic university. It's true that outside of the Netherlands, most employers and universities don't know the difference. But you won't be challenged as much, you won't learn as much, and it will be a very "empty" experience in comparison since most of the work given is just busy work to fill the time, and not challenging assignments to help you evolve.

If you want to get an easy degree that you are basically just paying for, HBO is for you. But if you want to learn useful skills, connect with people with similar passions, and develop yourself personally and academically, choose a VO instead.

Also, before people point it out, yes there are exceptions to this. I know of one HBO course that really breaks the mould and is as challenging as any VO course (albeit at a school that has a massive bullying problem). I am aware there are some educators out there who might actually have a unique vision and push the boundaries. But most of them end up at VO universities. If you want to study somewhere that challenges all conventions (of the Dutch educational system), consider going to a liberal arts university like UCM or Roosevelt.
Original post by Anonymous
Hi,
This advice goes both for the Netherlands and Belgium. When I was 18, I studied at a university of applied sciences in the Netherlands. I did that for a year and the experience was horrendous. I transferred to another applied sciences uni and it was equally bad. Finally, at 20, made the right choice and went to an academic university, and the experience was fantastic.
Online, when discussing the differences, most websites claim that one is geared towards preparing you for the workplace, and the other is for people wanting to pursue more academic careers. This is completely false. The quality of the education provided is night and day. And this isn't just my opinion, but that of everyone I've talked to who also experienced both types of education.
The reason for this is that there are 3 high school "levels" in the Netherlands. Only the highest level allows students to go straight to an academic university after graduating, while the other two only allow students to move onto a lower level of education, including university of applied sciences/colleges.
Since Dutch students at the university of applied sciences/colleges/HBOs are a lot of times extremely young (as young as 16) and had very shallow high school educations, these HBO universities have to make up for that. How do they do that? Well, the courses given are, in terms of difficulty and content, equivalent to middle school courses.
When I transferred to the second HBO, I went straight to the second year, and one of my courses was more dumbed down than an introduction to politics class I took when I was 13. All of the other courses were like this. It made me feel scammed, as I wanted to learn and grow, and not just gain credits for sitting around in a classroom.
The assignments are also mostly group assignments where everyone receives the same grade. I know people who passed the first year who showed up like 5 times and failed all exams. The group grades they got from others doing their work were used to compensate for the failed grades. The school does it automatically too, you don't even have to sign up for the free pass.
Many HBO universities seem to offer courses in niche topics that you can't find anywhere else. This is what drew me to them in the first place. But in reality, by picking a more generalised degree at an academic university, I learned way more about those niche topics I was interested in and a variety of related topics that helped me further my understanding of my chosen branch of study. Don't let their marketing trick you, you will learn more by googling the names of the courses they offer than by attending them.
There is a reason why most universities in the Netherlands require students to do a pre-master's if they want to pursue a master's, it's because they know you don't have to develop any skills or knowledge to graduate from an HBO study.
Don't be tricked into thinking your HBO degree will be equivalent to that of a VO/academic university. It's true that outside of the Netherlands, most employers and universities don't know the difference. But you won't be challenged as much, you won't learn as much, and it will be a very "empty" experience in comparison since most of the work given is just busy work to fill the time, and not challenging assignments to help you evolve.
If you want to get an easy degree that you are basically just paying for, HBO is for you. But if you want to learn useful skills, connect with people with similar passions, and develop yourself personally and academically, choose a VO instead.
Also, before people point it out, yes there are exceptions to this. I know of one HBO course that really breaks the mould and is as challenging as any VO course (albeit at a school that has a massive bullying problem). I am aware there are some educators out there who might actually have a unique vision and push the boundaries. But most of them end up at VO universities. If you want to study somewhere that challenges all conventions (of the Dutch educational system), consider going to a liberal arts university like UCM or Roosevelt.

hey there, i’m thinking of applying to an applied science university for a Bsc in ux design and was wondering what degree you have taken up if you don’t mind me asking?
Reply 2
Original post by Anonymous
hey there, i’m thinking of applying to an applied science university for a Bsc in ux design and was wondering what degree you have taken up if you don’t mind me asking?

Hey! I know there is one in the Hague, I suspect it would be better than the one I did. I went to Breda University and KDG in Belgium.
(edited 3 weeks ago)
Reply 3
Original post by hobocop
Hey! I know there is one in the Hague, I suspect it would be better than the one I did. I went to Breda University and KDG in Belgium.

Yes! I am actually applying to the one in the hague. I chose an applied science uni because I want to specialize in ux design so I was quite shocked to see this post ( I also think not knowing dutch would put me at a disadvantage but luckily i still have a year to apply 😅 ). I wish your university experience was better back then, but its great to hear that you have a great experience now and I hope for the best in your journey 🙂
Reply 4
Original post by rin_027
Yes! I am actually applying to the one in the hague. I chose an applied science uni because I want to specialize in ux design so I was quite shocked to see this post ( I also think not knowing dutch would put me at a disadvantage but luckily i still have a year to apply 😅 ). I wish your university experience was better back then, but its great to hear that you have a great experience now and I hope for the best in your journey 🙂

Thanks! Have fun in the Hague, I hope it really is better than the ones I went to. The Hague is also very a nice city. I imagine finding housing might be a struggle though.

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