The main characteristics of the Dutch bachelor-master system are as follows:
Bachelor's degrees require 180 European credits (ECs) in academic education, and 240 credits in applied science education, although since 2013 institutes can offer a 180-credit applied sciences bachelor's also. The status of the degree is set at the time of accreditation. The primary aim of the professional bachelor's is to move on and into the labour market. The academic bachelor's primary aim is to follow a master's programme. However, an academic bachelor's can also opt for entering the labour market, and professional bachelor's graduates can also opt to study master's programmes.
Master’s degrees in academic education require 120 credits in engineering, in agricultural disciplines, in life sciences, in natural sciences and in dentistry, 180 credits in medicine, and a minimum of 60 credits in other subjects. Master’s degrees in applied sciences education require a minimum of 60 credits.
Access to academic master programmes is based on entrance requirements determined by the institutions. In general, students are admitted to master’s programmes on the basis of their having completed a relevant bachelor’s programme. In fact the law specifies that every academic bachelor programme should give entrance to at least one academic master's programme. In those cases where the master’s programme doesn’t correspond to the bachelor’s programme, admission may be selective.
The master's degree titles are MSc, MA, MBA, and the bachelor's titles range from BA, BSc to BBA and other variants. The old Dutch titles (doctorandus, meester of ingenieur for academic programmes and ingenieur, baccalaureus for programmes in higher professional education) thus continue to exist.
Access to doctoral programmes is determined by the institutions; in general a master’s degree is required for admission to doctoral programmes.
Student aid and funding mechanisms for institutions are adapted to the bachelor-master structure.