Academic ranks in the Netherlands

Academic ranks in the Netherlands are the titles, relative importance and power of professors, researchers, and administrative personnel held in academia. These ranks are mostly limited to scholars holding a position at the Dutch research universities with the position of Lector being the exception at the vocational universities.


Academic ranks

Dutch title Literal translation Pay grade[1] US equivalent UK/commonwealth equivalent
Hoogleraar High teacher H1, H2, 14+extra Full Professor Full Professor
(only and unique academic rank for University of Applied Science) Lector Reader 15 Full Professor Full Professor/Reader
Universitair Hoofddocent University head lecturer 13, 14 Associate professor Senior lecturer / Reader
Universitair Docent University lecturer 11, 12 Assistant professor Lecturer
Docent Lecturer 10–13 Lecturer Lecturer
Onderzoeker / Postdoc Researcher, Postdoc 10–13 Researcher Research fellow
Assistent in Opleiding / Promovendus Assistant in training P Ph.D. student Ph.D. student
Onderzoeksassistent Research assistant 6–9 Research assistant Research assistant
Student Assistent Student (enrolled in B.Sc. or M.Sc. program) assistant SA Student teaching/research assistant Student teaching/research assistant

Administrative positions

Dutch title Description Length of term Requirements
Executive board of the university
Voorzitter raad van bestuur CEO or president of a university Appointed for fixed 4 year terms, which can be consecutive Need not be a professor, can be appointed from outside the organisation
Rector Magnificus Ceremonial head and head of research and education of a university Appointed for fixed 4 year terms, which can be consecutive Always a full professor, elected from within the sitting professors of the university.
Leden van de raad van bestuur Additional members of the board of a university (e.g. CFO) Appointed for fixed 4 year terms, which can be consecutive Need not be a professor, can be appointed from outside the organisation
Department or Division
Decaan (Dean) Head of research and education of a faculty Appointed for fixed 4 year terms, which can be consecutive Usually a full professor
Leerstoel houder Leader of a research group or department (lit: teaching chair holder) Appointed indefinitely (until mandatory retirement age) The most common full professor. When retiring a replacement will be actively looked for in an open application procedure.

Professor ranks

The ranking system of faculty with combined teaching and research tasks in Dutch universities is as follows:

In daily practice no distinction is made between rank 1 and 2 in the Dutch ranking system. Each rank increase come with a shift in pay grade. Promotion from rank 2 to rank 1 within the same function is usually easier than moving to a differently named function.

The title professor is protected by Dutch law and can only be used to address full professors (or emeritus full professors) affiliated with a university. The title, or abbreviation cannot be used for any other teaching, professional, or academic rank.

A (full) professor should have substantial research achievements and international reputation, and is typically the head of a department or of a "chair-group" within a department.

Personal chairs, are full professors based on personal achievement but have no formal administrative function in leading a department. Personal chair are becoming increasingly familiar; and are generally promoted from the assistant or associate professor ranks in a department.

Dutch universities also appoint professors occupying an endowed chair (Dutch: "bijzonder hoogleraar", literally "special professor") on a part-time basis.[2] Special professors usually have their main employment somewhere else, often in industry or at a research institute or University elsewhere, although some foundations sponsor a special professor for one of the sitting associate professors. The special professor (bijzonder hoogleraar) does not get paid by the university, but receives a salary from an external organization, such as a company, an organization or a fund.

In the Netherlands the main right of a full professor is the jus promovendi. This means that by Dutch law, any doctoral dissertation must always be supported by a full professor; or in other words the principal supervisor of any PhD project is always a full professor.

Special (endowed) professors sometimes provide lectures or do research on special topics associated with their main employment. They also often supervise graduate students who may do their research at the place of the professor's main employment.

Some Dutch universities have also instituted University Professorships appointing scientific ambassadors for the university as a whole, rather than representing a department. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences can appoint a professor to be an Academy Professors, a high honor for a sitting professor.

When a full professor retires in good standing, the professor becomes emeritus professor. This allows the retired professor to keep the title professor for life. An emeritus professor is allowed to supervise doctorate theses until five years after retirement. Emeritus professors have no formal teaching or administrative duties and are paid no salaries (instead they receive pension payment). They are generally provided a desk and access to university resources as long as the emeritus professor requests.

Due to the system part-time special professors and personal chairs promoted from sitting staff within a department, many university research groups will have several professors.

Most academic staff will have both research and teaching duties.

Although the ranks are often translated as if they were aligned with the American system (i.e. assistant, associate, and full professor), this not as clear-cut. Traditionally a lecturer could only become associate or full professor by applying for such a position if there was a vacancy. However, Dutch universities are moving towards a system closer to the US tenure track system to have more flexibility in rewarding merits of individuals. In Dutch universities, permanent positions must be offered upon the third extension of fixed-term position or after 6 years of continuous contracts(whichever comes first), a rule which was instantiated to avoid permatemps.

In 1986 there was a reform of the system. Junior professors and professors of the agricultural and technology universities, until then labelled as Lector were transformed into full Professors. A rank 2 professor was introduced at a lower salary scale than the existing professors. The present salary scales refer to Professor 1 or Professor 2 (the former is the higher in standing). The former title buitengewoon hoogleraar ("professor by special appointment", literally "extraordinary professor")[3] for a part-time professor is no longer used (since the 1986 reforms); all the then holders of such positions became part-time full professors.

In the early 2000s the lector position has been re-introduced at universities of applied sciences for research group leaders aimed at applied research. Until that moment universities of applied sciences had no research tasks. Based on salary pay grade, lectors would ranks between associate and full professor in the research university system.


  2. "Nuffic Glossary". Retrieved 2013-02-24.
  3. "Nuffic Glossary". Retrieved 2013-02-24.
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