Figures - Education

Almost 40 percent of the Dutch population aged 15 to 74 years have secondary education diplomas at vocational (MBO 2, 3 or 4), senior general (HAVO) or pre-university (VWO) level. This group has constituted the majority for years and its size has been relatively stable throughout. At the same time, the share of people who have completed higher (HBO) or university (WO) education has increased and came to 30 percent in 2017. In addition, there is another group – 29 percent – whose highest attained level of education is primary, prevocational secondary (VMBO), the lower years of senior general (HAVO) or pre-university (VWO) education, or lower level secondary vocational education (MBO-1).

In academic year 2017/’18, nearly 1.5 million pupils were attending a (special-needs) primary school or a special education school at primary level. Their number has decreased in recent years and this trend is expected to continue, based on the population forecast by Statistics Netherlands. Especially in mainstream primary education, the number of pupils has declined, while the number of children attending a (special-needs) primary school or special education at primary level seems to be stabilising (64 thousand in 2017/’18).

In the academic year 2017/’18, there were nearly 956 thousand secondary students (excluding practical education and special education schools at secondary level). In Year 3 of secondary education, 47.5 percent of the student population were in senior general (HAVO) or pre-university (VWO) education. In the Randstad conurbation and in/around the university cities, there are higher than average shares of students at HAVO/VWO level. In Bloemendaal, Heemstede and Oegstgeest, over 80 percent of secondary students are in HAVO or VWO. The share of HAVO/VWO students is below 35 percent in some northern municipalities.

The number of senior secondary vocational education (MBO) students shows an up-and-down trend. After some years of decline, the number of MBO students was up slightly in academic year 2016/’17. The upward trend continued in the academic year 2017/’18, among both the male and the female student population. Male students constitute the majority in MBO. Furthermore, the share of students in the school-based pathway (‘bol’) increased in particular. In higher education, the increase has prevailed for a much longer time. Female students are in the majority in higher vocational (HBO) and university (WO) education.

The top 3 study programmes at MBO level among male students were Technology, industrial and civil engineering at 1, Service provision at 2, and Law, administration, trade and business services at 3. Among female MBO students, the top 3 are Healthcare and well-being at 1, Service provision at 2 and Law, administration, trade and business services at 3. The top 3 study programmes at HBO level among male students are Law, administration, trade and business services at 1; Technology, industrial and civil engineering at 2, Service provision at 3. Among female HBO students, the top 3 are Healthcare and well-being at 1, Law, administration, trade and business services at 2 and Education at 3. The top 3 study programmes at university level for male students are Law, administration, trade and business services at 1; Technology, industrial and civil engineering at 2, and Journalism, social and behavioural sciences at 3. Among female university students, the top 3 are Journalism, social and behavioural sciences at 1, Law, administration, trade and business services at 2, Healthcare and well-being at 3.

Vocational and university enrolments by women are most often related to health care and welfare. Such programmes are among the top 3 for female students at MBO, HBO as well as university level. For example, nursing and obstetrics, social work and medicine. Among the male students, the top 3 comprises technology, manufacturing and civil engineering. Courses in law, administration and trade are popular among both male and female students. This is also true for studies related to provision of services. At HBO level, teacher education ranks in the top 3 among female but not among male students. Female university enrolments are most often in the field of journalism, behaviour and society, including psychology and sociology.

In 2016, total expenditure on education came to 42.9 billion euros. The highest proportions were spent on primary and secondary education. These education sectors also have the highest numbers of students. In secondary education, total expenditure went up by 31 percent to 10.9 billion euros in 2016 over a period of ten years. In primary education, total expenditure grew by 14 percent to 9.8 billion euros in 2016 over the same period.

Government expenditure on education has risen in recent years and came to 38.7 billion euros in 2016. The share of education expenditure in GDP is fairly stable at around 5.3 percent. In 2016, education occupied a 12.6 percent share in total government expenditure. This is slightly higher than in previous years.


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Explanation of symbols

empty cell Not applicable
. Data not available
* Provisional figure
** Revised provisional figure (but not definite)
2016-2017 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/2017 Average for 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/’17 Crop year, financial year, school year, etc., beginning in 2016 and ending in 2017
2014/’15-2016/’17 Crop year, financial year, etc., 2014/’15 to 2016/’17 inclusive

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

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