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Research master's programmes

Research master's programmes are scientific master's programmes that specifically aim to prepare students for doing research in a PhD or other research-related function. The programmes have a legal study duration of 120 EC, on the basis of article 7.4a, fifth paragraph, of the Higher Education Act (WHW).

The new Assessment Framework for the Higher Education Accreditation System of the Netherlands 2016 (see Frameworks/documents) has been in force since 1 January 2017. There is a transitional arrangement.

Additional criteria

In addition to the assessment framework for (initial) accreditation applies to research master's programmes a number of additional criteria. These relate to the research-focused nature of the programme and research in which it is offered. Since 1 January 2017 the 'Specification of additional criteria for research master’s programmes, 30 May 2016' is effective (see Frameworks/documents). There are the following transitional arrangements:

  • reviews that lead to a report before 1 January 2017: treatment according to the old guidelines (2015);
  • for proposals for panel compositions for reviews of research master's (even if they are part of a visitation group with regular programmes) finalize after 1 January 2017: treatment according to the new criteria (2016);
  • when preparing an assessment that will be completed after 1 January 2017 already so far advanced that applying the new criteria leads to unreasonable harm, NVAO may decide to 1 July 2017 at the request of the institution treatment will be according to the old guidelines (2015).


The accreditation term for a existing research master's programme takes up to six years. 

The NVAO covers the assessment for an existing research master's programme within three months and for a new research master's programme within six months. Upon receipt of the draft decision by the NVAO, the institution may appeal (see below). 


The main documents are presented on the right side of this page.

Submitting applications


In 2018 NVAO rates 800 euros for the assessment of an existing research master's programme (accreditation) and 18,200 euros for a new research master's programme. 

Different rates apply to different procedures. The cost for foreign visits or the use of external experts, advice or additional requirements are additional invoiced. There is a rest rate if the request for a new institutional audit is hereby repealed.

More information

NVAO Contact: Thomas de Bruijn, policy advisor Department The Netherlands