Utrecht University leads Higher Education Guide as best broad university

Utrecht University has moved up from 3rd to 1st place in the Keuzegids ranking. Photo: DUB

What are the best Bachelor programmes in the Netherlands? And which universities generally offer high-quality education?   The Higher Education Guide Universities tries to help out prospective students. The creators of the guide assess each programme by looking at the student evaluations on content, lecturers, examination, ambiance, and preparation for one’s career. Also included in the assessment are the percentage of students that move on to the second year of the programme, and how many obtain their degrees within five years.

Every year, that leads to a comparison of universities: who provides the best education? To keep this tricky comparison pure, the Guide comes with two different rankings: one that lists ‘broad’ universities with many different faculties, and one for the ‘other’ universities.

Climbing the ranks
The current rankings differ greatly from those of  last year. In the broad university ranking, Utrecht jumps from third to first place, while VU University Amsterdam drops from second place to the bottom of the ranking.

Remarkable in the ‘other’ universities is Enschede. This University of Technology was a clear second place last year, and has now dropped to fourth place. Wageningen is still in first place, and Erasmus University Rotterdam is once again at the bottom of the list.

The differences can be explained. The student assessments come from the results of the National Student Survey, and after lots of hassle, the questionnaire has been updated. Aside from core questions the students were to answer, there was also a flexible list of questions, of which the institution could decide whether or not the students would have to answer them. These flexible questions were not taken into account for the Guide. That makes it impossible to compare this year’s list to that of previous years, according to the Higher Education Guide.

Differences are small
You could also say that it shines a light on the limitations of rankings like this. Apparently, the extreme ends of the spectrum can be seen fairly easily (Wageningen and Rotterdam), but the differences in between are rather small, which means a new questionnaire can easily cause a huge shift in the ranking.

But it’s also possible that in the past two years, things have simply changed. The survey was not held last year because the institutions had their hands full with the Covid crisis, and theoretically, a Bachelor degree only takes three years to complete. There are different students now, in a completely different situation – especially in spring, when the survey was conducted.

Broad, classic universities

Utrecht University


Nijmegen RU


Leiden University


University of Groningen


Amsterdam VU


AVU University Amsterdam


Other universities

Wageningen University


Open University


Maastricht University


University of Twente


Tilburg TiU


Eindhoven University of Technology


Delft University of Technology


Erasmus University Rotterdam


Good ambiance in Utrecht, but criticism on preparation for labour market
An obvious difference between this year’s assessment and that of last year is that there is no assessment of the facilities and academic education anymore. And that were exactly the things students in Utrecht were traditionally unhappy about. Still, that alone cannot explain why the programmes at the UU rate so much better this time.

The last National Student Survey was two years ago, and a lot can change in the meantime. Relatively new programmes, like the English-spoken Bachelor programmes of Philosophy, Politics and Economics and Global Sustainability Science, score much higher now. They’ve had time to get their programmes on track.

As a bonus, students at the UU are satisfied with the level of English spoken by UU lecturers. Nationally, the UU lecturers are rated a 4.0 out of 5, which gives them third place after Groningen and Maastricht.

The Governance programme is the clear winner of the UU ranking. This programme scores ‘double plus’ on content, lecturers, examination, preparation for the labour market, and ambiance. The Medicine programme also ranks very high. The Medicine programme now is the highest-rated Med school in the Netherlands, especially based on content and preparation for the labour market. A third success story is Music sciences, which barely got a passing grade last year, but is now considered excellent. The Humanities programmes of German and Celtic had always performed well, and manage to retain their status this year.

Another general positive aspect is the high score for atmosphere at several programmes. Whether it’s Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Maths, Spanish, or Global Sustainability: the atmosphere is rated double plus.

There is, however, still some criticism left for the UU programmes. Many programmes have low scores in preparation for the labour market. And the flow from first to second year can be improved upon everywhere.

The lowest-scoring programme at the UU is Economics. It’s the only UU programme that receives a lower score this year than in the previous guide, and with 49 points it takes the bottom ranking from Artificial Intelligence. At Economics, students are dissatisfied with the content, the lecturers, and the examination. Compared to last year, there are only three programmes left that receive mediocre scores: aside from Economics, these are Artificial Intelligence and Liberal Arts & Sciences.

The programmes Italian, French and Religious Studies do not appear in the guide because the number of respondents was too small. Molecular Life Sciences is not included because the programme is new.

Ranking of UU programmes in the Higher Education Guide

 Very good


Public Administration and Organization Science

91 (83)


89 (82)


89 (74)


86 (81)

Biomedical Sciences

83 (76)


80 (76)


80 (58)

Language and Culture studies

77 (64)


77 (64)


77 (68)


77 (69)

Philosophy, Politics & Economics

77 (63)

University College Utrecht

77 (74)





74 (69)

Educational sciences

74 (67)


74 (63)

Art History

74 (62)

Earth Sciences

74 (75)

University College Roosevelt

71 (72)


71 (71)

Cultural anthropology

71 (58)

Global Sustainability Science

71 (56)


71 (56)

Veterinary Medicine

71 (68)


69 (57)

Social Geography

69 (54)


69 (61)

Nature sciences & innovation management

69 (63)


69 (64)


66 (61)

Media & Culture

66 (56)




Interdisciplinary Social Sciences

63 (61)


63 (53)

Information Sciences

63 (48)


63 (60)


63 (59)


63 (67)

Pharmaceutical Sciences

60 (56)


57 (54)




Liberal Arts & Sciences

54 (51)

Artificial Intelligence

54 (46)


49 (54)