Edition 2020

Photo description: Young people working together behind laptops.

What are the most popular majors?

In senior secondary vocational education (MBO), most students graduate in the field of care and welfare. More than a quarter of the graduates at level 2 or higher in 2019 received a diploma in this field. Business studies and administration were the most popular subjects at universities of applied sciences (Bachelor’s) and universities (Master’s), with almost a quarter of students graduating in these subjects.

What are the most popular majors?#1 Mbo 2-4 Care and well-being38,871#2 Mbo 2-4Economics andadministration15,652#3 Mbo 2-4 Technology and process industry13,121
#1 W0-master Business and administration10,285#3 Hbo-bachelorHealthcare9,240#2 Hbo-bachelorEducation9,795#1 Hbo-bachelorBusiness and administration15,812#2 W0-masterSocial and behavourial sciences7,541#3 W0-masterHealthcare4,515

A total of 255 thousand students in the 2018/’19 academic year were awarded a diploma at MBO 2 level or higher, a university of applied sciences (HBO) Bachelor’s or research university (WO) Master’s degree. Slightly over half of these graduates were awarded an MBO diploma. More than a quarter graduated with an HBO Bachelor’s degree and about 18 percent obtained his or her Master’s degree from a research university.

Half of MBO graduates were male and half female; the ratio is somewhat more skewed in higher education. Of those who graduated in 2018/’19, approximately 56 percent were women.

More than a quarter of MBO graduates graduate in care and welfare

More than 141 thousand students obtained an MBO diploma at level 2, 3 or 4. The largest group graduated in the field of care and welfare (38,871 students). These students were mostly female: almost 9 in 10. They went on to become nurses or carers, for example.

The second-most popular area of study at MBO level is economics and administration, with 15,652 students receiving a diploma in this area. There are approximately as many men as women among this group. Engineering and the processing industry, the third-most popular area of study with 13,121 students, has virtually only male graduates (97 percent).

MBO 2-4 graduates, academic year 2018/'19* (%)
Women Men
Top 5 majors . .
Total MBO 2-4 50 50
Health and welfare 86 14
Economics and
55 45
Technology and
industrial engineering
3 97
Trade and
53 47
Safety and
31 69
* provisional figures

Some 68 thousand students obtained their Bachelor’s degrees in higher vocational education (HBO). Of all graduates, the largest group, almost 16 thousand students, obtained a degree in business studies and administration. That is just under a quarter. Among these graduates men were in the majority (6 out of 10).

More than 14 percent of HBO Bachelor’s graduates graduated in teacher training and education science/pedagogy. About three-quarters of these graduates were female.

Just under 14 percent of HBO Bachelor’s graduates, slightly more than 9 thousand, obtained a degree in the health care sector. In total, 8 out of all 10 graduates of health-related study programmes at HBO Bachelor’s level were female.

HBO graduates, academic year 2018/'19* (%)
Women Men
Top 5 majors . .
Total HBO 57 43
Business and
42 58
Education, teacher trainings and
pedagogical/didactical courses
74 26
Health 81 19
Welfare 82 18
Arts 49 51
* provisional figures

Business studies and administration most frequently chosen subject in university education (WO)

Nearly 46 thousand students obtained their Master’s degrees from a research university. As is the case in HBO, business studies and administration is the most frequently chosen field of study. More than 10 thousand students obtained their Master’s degree in this field, which represents just under a quarter. The male-female ratio in this field is slightly less skewed at research universities than in HBO; 46 percent of the graduates were women.

Study programmes in the field of social and behavioural sciences (7.5 thousand graduates or 17 percent) are the second-most frequently chosen specialisations in university education (WO). These programmes include psychology, sociology and cultural sciences, economics and econometrics and political science and social sciences. Women are overrepresented in this area, with women outnumbering men two to one.

Of all WO graduates, 1 in 10 obtained a Master’s degree in the field of healthcare. Here, too, two of every three graduates were women.

WO graduates, academic year 2018/'19* (%)
Category Women Men
Top 5 majors . .
Total WO 55 45
Business and
46 54
Behaviour and
65 35
Law 66 34
Health 69 31
Education, teacher trainings and
pedagogical/didactical courses
80 20
*Provisional figures

The questions


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Explanation of symbols

Explanation of symbols
Symbol Explanation
Empty cell figure not applicable
. figure is unknown, insufficiently reliable or confidential
* provisional figure
** revised provisional figure
(between two numbers) inclusive
0 (0.0) less than half of unit concerned
2016–2017 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/2017 average for the years 2016 up to and including 2017
2016/’17 crop year, financial year, school year etc., beginning in 2016 and ending in 2017
2004/’05–2016/’17 crop year etc. 2004/’05 up to and including 2016/’17

Due to rounding, some totals may not correspond to the sum of the separate figures.

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Concept & image editing

Irene van Kuik


Anne Blaak

Janneke Hendriks

Richard Jollie

Hendrik Zuidhoek


Ronald van der Bie

Kees Groenenboom

Annelie Hakkenes-Tuinman

Michel van Kooten

Sidney Vergouw

Paul de Winden

Elma Wobma

Karolien van Wijk

Gert Jan Wijma


Gabriëlle de Vet

Frans Dinnissen

Final editing

Annelie Hakkenes-Tuinman

We thank all other colleagues who have contributed to this edition of The Netherlands in Numbers.