The Applied Sciences University - Applied Research versus Fundamental Research University

Academic Courses, Programmes and People within a University of Applied Sciences

Wittenborg is a University of Applied Sciences, which means that its bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes are related to the concept that graduates should be able to find new and better work, or improve their current working situation – this means that degree programmes at universities of applied sciences always lead to direct improved employability chances of students and graduates.

As a university of applied sciences, as any university in Europe, Wittenborg applies European standards to its degree programmes, such as the European Credit Transfer System and levels of higher education as described in the 'Dublin Descriptors', to which universities in the European Union adhere in their bachelor's and master's programmes.

In the Netherlands, higher education is split into a binary system, with research universities and universities of applied sciences. Research universities provide degree programmes that focus on fundamental/basic or scientific research with the aim of improving scientific theories for better understanding and prediction of natural or other phenomena. On the other hand, universities of applied sciences, such as Wittenborg, focus purely on programmes leading to greater employability and, therefore, the research that students carry out in the bachelor's and master's programmes, although adhering to international academic standards, is clearly applied research.

Academic English versus ‘academisch’ Dutch

Another important note is that in English ‘academic’ refers to higher learning or formal study at an institution for higher learning, such as a university of applied sciences or a research university. Academic can also refer to the qualifications obtained, the curriculum, the programme, or courses. In the Netherlands, the word ‘academic’ must not be confused with the word ‘academisch’, which refers to study and study programmes at a research university (‘universiteit’).

University versus Universiteit

Question: When is a university not a university? – Answer – when it’s a university of applied sciences in the Netherlands.

Within the Dutch binary higher education system there are Universities of Applied Sciences and Research Universities. Naturally as an English speaker you may think that both are universities, and linguistically you would be correct. Also, both types of higher education institute offer bachelor's and master's programmes that are accredited by the same government agency against the same national and European criteria. However, the difference is in the focus of these programmes, and especially the areas of research carried out (applied and fundamental). The distinction in Dutch is made linguistically easier with a university of applied sciences being translated as ‘hogeschool’ and a research university being simply translated as ‘universiteit’. Of course there are large and small versions of both types and then the distinctions become even more varied. Wittenborg is a university of applied sciences with a specific focus on management programmes in English for international and internationally orientated students.

Applied Research vs. Fundamental/Basic Research? 

Often, we get asked the question: "What is our research good for"?


Applied Research versus Fundamental Research