Hobéons advisory for higher education institutes  

The higher education system in the Netherlands is relatively accessible for established foreign institutions. In recent years, several institutions have expressed an interest in starting operations in the Netherlands. How does this process unfold? And is starting a higher education institute in the Netherlands an option for you?

Joining the Dutch higher education

The higher education system in the Netherlands operates under a dual system. There are academically oriented universities and practical-oriented universities of applied sciences. As a foreign institution, you have two options for commencing operations: either establish your own legal entity or start a branch campus. If you choose to establish your own legal entity, it is only possible to be recognized as a university of applied sciences. There are legal restrictions on the use of the name "university" - it can only be used by the public academically oriented institutions established by law. With your own legal entity, you can have your programs accredited and apply for visas for foreign students. This is not possible if you operate as a branch campus because you fall under the regulations of the country where the main institution is situated.

How does the process of acquiring legal personhood for higher education unfold? If your institution wants to become its own legal entity, there are two steps to be taken.
1) The first step is to have a program accredited by the Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organization (NVAO). The NVAO carries out a comprehensive program accreditation based on the European Standards and Guidelines. The program must already have graduated students at the time of accreditation. Accreditation evaluates the proven quality of the program. 2)The second step is to have the institutions recognized by the Minister of Education. The Dutch Inspectorate of Education conducts an assessment to ensure that the university and its governance comply with the Dutch Higher Education and Research Act. The Minister then makes the decision, and the institution and accredited programs are included in the Dutch Register of Higher Education.Dutch higher education has undergone significant developments over the past 10 years. Hobéon has been closely involved in two of these developments. The consultants at Hobéon provide daily guidance to various higher education institutions in this field. Hobéon has played a vital role in advising institutions on the development of their governance and rethinking and redesigning their quality control systems. These developments are also relevant to higher education institutions in other countries. The two most important developments are:


Higher education institutions have a complex governance structure, partially anchored in the law. The strength of this governance lies in the presence of various roles and (independent) committees, each making their specific contributions to the quality of education. The Executive board is and remains ultimately responsible. Within the governance structure, there are multiple layers of participation and decision-making. As an internal regulator, an examination committee ensures the quality of assessments and verifies whether students meet the requirements for their diplomas. Additionally, there are several advisory committees from the professional field, providing guidance to the educational program on the latest developments in the field. Working with diverse stakeholders creates a highly enriched environment where administrators, managers, teachers, students, industry representatives, and internal regulators collaborate to enhance the quality of education. Would you like to know the strength of this governance model? What is the secret behind Dutch higher education? We would be delighted to share our perspectives and practical examples with you.

Rethinking quality systems

A strong quality culture at the study program level is the primary contributing factor to quality of education, the performance of the students and therewith the social impact of educational organisations. So how to define a 'good' quality culture and in what way does this interact with the governance and quality assurance in the institution? From our experiences and practices in, mostly, the Netherlands, we can define four main factors. 

  1. Define a definition of quality, quality management and main characteristics of a 'good' quality culture. 
  2. Translate the definitions into policies, processes and systems of quality assurance.
  3. Ensure quality culture through the role of governing bodies and institutional management.
  4.  Improve quality culture through education leadership and constant reflection. 

Managing educational leadership and providing time for constant reflection are according to us conditio sine qua non for embedding a strong quality culture within an institution. By working more on the basis of trust, establishing a joint measuring system of quality performance, working beyond the boundaries of departments or institutions, and establishing professional learning communities, quality culture can flourish. In this way, systematic improvement can be achieved and connections between processes, policy and people are really established.
Rethinking quality systems has reshaped the landscape of higher education, creating new opportunities and challenges. Hobéon remains at the forefront, partnering with universities to navigate these changes and drive innovation in education. Together, we can shape the future of quality in higher education and empower the next generation of learners.


As a foreign higher education institution you may have multiple reasons for considering operations in the Netherlands. If you're curious whether this is a suitable option for your institution or if you'd like to learn more about the procedure, please feel free to contact us. Hobéon has successfully guided various institutions towards acquiring the legal entity status for higher education.