Open University in the Netherlands

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Open University of the Netherlands
Type University for distance learning
Established 1984
Academic staff
Students 19,064
Location Heerlen, Netherlands

The Open Universiteit Nederland (English: Open University of the Netherlands) is a Dutch university or institution for distance learning for higher education at university level (both professional and scientific). This means that students do not attend classes but study at home. The Open Universiteit uses a variety of methods for distance learning, including written materials, the internet, and occasional evening seminars or day sessions.


The Open Universiteit Nederland was founded in 1984, welcoming its first students in September 1984. It is an independent government-funded institute. The administration is based in Heerlen, in the province of Limburg, in the very south of the Netherlands. Dispersed over the Netherlands, the Open Universiteit has 12 study centres and 3 support centres, as well as 6 study centres in Dutch-speaking Flanders (Belgium) and 1 study centre in the Netherlands Antilles.

29,104 students are enrolled (in 2007) at all study or support centres in the Netherlands, including students who live in other parts of the world; in 2003, 1,991 students were enrolled at a Flemish study centre. Since the Open Universiteit has been founded, over 250,000 students have taken part in its courses.


The Dutch government's purpose in founding the Open Universiteit Nederland was to make higher education accessible to anyone with the necessary aptitudes and interests, regardless of formal qualifications.

The Open Universiteit identifies four further aims:

  • to create a cost-effective form of higher education,
  • to encourage innovation in Dutch higher education, in terms of both curriculum and teaching methods,
  • to reduce the teacher shortage in Dutch primary and secondary schools, and
  • to be a recognized player in (commercial) distance and e-learning training programmes and consultancy.



Chairman of the Open Universiteit is Theo Bovens, a former wethouder (alderman) of Maastricht. Theo Bovens succeeded Thijs Wöltgens, who retired in 2005.

Departments & faculties[edit]

The Open Universiteit consists of three faculties:[1]

Each faculty is headed by a dean of studies, who supervises teams of subject specialists and educational technologists engaged in developing courses and programmes, often in co-operation with specialists from other universities or from trade and industry.

In addition to this, the university has two expertise centres: The Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies (CELSTEC), which develops innovative teaching methods for distance education and higher education in general, and The Ruud the Moor Centre, which seeks to support professionals in secondary education. CELSTEC consists of three Research and Development programmes covering the topics of Learning & Cognition, Learning Networks for Professional Development, and Learning Media.The School of Education staff are all CELSTEC staff members. CELSTEC's Research and Development work is also aimed to support the Schools of the Open Universiteit.

Furthermore, the Open Universiteit has two support staff departments. They are the department of Business Services and the department of Support Services. Together they provide operational services, ranging from student administration to the distribution of course materials.

Study centers[edit]


Belgium (Flanders)[edit]


Dutch-speaking areas:

Study programmes[edit]

The Open Universiteit offers three types of study programmes:

1) Bachelor and Master degree programmes. The Open Universiteit offers fully accredited bachelor's or master's degree programmes in Law, Economics, Business and Public administration, Engineering, Environmental science, Cultural studies, Psychology and Education. The university converted its programmes to the Bachelor-Master structure in September 2002.

2) Short programmes. Students can also follow short programmes. These include short vocational training courses, postgraduate courses and short undergraduate programmes, which are developed in co-operation with universities of professional education, academic universities, professional bodies or commercial companies.

3) Courses. Besides these academic programmes, students can choose from over 300 modular courses. This modular course system implies that student can enrol either for full-length degree programmes or choose to study one of over 400 individual courses.

Most course-material is in Dutch, but more and more material is becoming available in English. Examinations are in general in Dutch and have to be taken at one of the locations of the Open Universiteit, that is, either at a study centres or at a support centres in the Netherlands, Flanders or the Netherlands Antilles. For individuals there are possibilities to have (under strict supervision conditions) an exam taken at an alternative location, such as at Dutch embassies, in prisons or on a ship.


People from all walks of life and all ages take advantage of the Open Universiteit. There are no entry requirements other than the ability to study at an appropriate level. The Open Universiteit is especially popular with those who cannot physically attend a traditional university (because they are disabled, abroad, in prison, or serving in the armed forces), or who wish to study a first (or additional) degree while holding down a full-time job, whether to progress their career or allow them to change their career. About 70% of the students remain in paid employment throughout their studies.


  1. ^ "OU Faculteiten". Open Universiteit Nederland. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°52′45″N 5°57′34″E / 50.87905°N 5.95931°E / 50.87905; 5.95931