Associate degree programmes attract mainly upper secondary VET graduates
In the academic year 2011/12, 63% of higher professional education (HBO) first-year students in associate degree programmes were graduates from upper secondary vocational education and training (MBO). This is slightly more than twice the share of those enrolled in four-year bachelor programmes. In the latter, most students come from upper secondary general or pre-university education. Associate degree students are older than those aiming to acquire a bachelor’s degree; more than one third of them are 30 years or older. A slight majority are men, and most choose part-time studies or programmes based on the dual principle, i.e. combining learning in HBO and the workplace.
Two-year HBO programmes increasingly popular
The option of a two-year HBO programme was introduced in 2006/07. The aim was to give more upper secondary VET graduates and people in employment opportunities to acquire a higher education qualification and the chance to progress further. Associate degree programmes are closely aligned to bachelor degree programmes. This means associate degree holders can continue their studies to acquire a bachelor’s degree, which opens the way for further progression to master degree programmes in HBO and university. While associate degree qualifications count towards a bachelor’s degree, they are not only a step upwards but also have distinct professional profiles. In 2011/12, nearly 4 000 students enrolled in these short-cycle studies compared to over 1 500 first-year students in 2006. They account for slightly more than 1.5% of the total number of first-year HBO students.