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Recognition of new institutions

In the Netherlands, Dutch private organisations (legal bodies with full legal rights) that are not funded by the government may apply for recognition by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science as a “recognised private higher education institution”, which recognition entitles them to provide accredited programmes, and confers statutorily recognised bachelor’s and master’s degrees (legal entities providing higher education).

Note: In the Netherlands, there is no statutorily recognised accreditation for programmes or courses of less than one year’s duration. Such programmes or courses may apply to a sector organisation or professional association for a recommendation.

The Dutch Higher Education and Research Act (WHW) distinguishes the following recognised higher education institutions:

  • government-funded universities as set down by law: the government-funded institutions are the well-known research universities and universities of applied sciences. They are funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). The programmes they provide are statutorily recognised, as are the associated diplomas and degrees;
  • recognised private higher education institutions: private educational establishments that do not receive government funding may apply for recognition by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science as a “recognised private higher education institution”, which entitles them to provide accredited programmes. Following accreditation, the programmes provided by recognised private higher education institutions are statutorily recognised. The diplomas associated with such programmes are commensurate with the diplomas conferred by government-funded institutions.

Students enrolled at recognised institutions qualify for student grants and a public transport pass.

Three steps

The procedure for organisations that wish to be recognised as a “recognised private higher education institution” and provide accredited programmes involves three steps:

  1. The organisation must apply to NVAO for an extensive framework for initial accreditation which is weighted: the assessment is based on the full curriculum of the programme (the programme must be offered a full cycle in the Netherlands and there are students who graduated). The weighted extended initial accreditation therefore is no plan review. Following the assessment of the programme, NVAO takes a decision on behalf of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. NVAO charges a fee for its assessment (see "Rate").
  2. In addition, the organisation must apply to the Dutch Inspectorate of Education for a recommendation. The Inspectorate assesses the quality and continuity of the candidate, the institution itself, including its compliance with the Dutch Higher Education and Research Act (WHW). It advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science in this regard. Recognised educational establishments are subject to supervision by the Inspectorate.
  3. Following a positive decision by NVAO and a recommendation by the Inspectorate, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science decides whether the organisation will be recognised as a “recognised private institution” and subsequently be incorporated into the Dutch higher education system, based on the policy guidelines regarding the authorisation to award higher education degrees.


NVAO will process applications for recognition as “recognised private higher education institution” within six months. In addition the procedures of the Dutch Inspectorate of Education and the Ministry take place. In total the procedure takes up to a year/year and a half.


For your application, use the assessment framework for the "extended initial accreditation". After entry into force of the Law 'Accreditatie op maat' from February 1, 2019 and the approval of the concept-Assessment Framework for the Higher Education Accreditation System of the Netherlands 2018 (Framework 2018) the Framework 2018 is in force.

Submitting applications


In 2019 NVAO rate for extensive initial accreditations in the context of the recognition procedure for “recognised private institutions” is 18,700 euros.

There will be an additional charge for visits abroad or the services of external experts in the event of planning-neutral conversions, consultations on nomenclature, or supplementary requirements. A residual rate will apply if the application for aggravated extensive initial accreditation is withdrawn.

More information

NVAO Communication the Netherlands