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fact sheet
22 November 2022
professors university research

Photo: EyeEm Mobile GmbH/Hollandse Hoogte

In this factsheet we share information on the role professors, the ratio between the number of male and female professors, and a brief description of the labor market.

In short

  • The Netherlands has 3,008 professors (fte).
  • This figure excludes the over 1,600 professors (persons) working in health care.
  • 26% of all professors are women.

3,008 professors: 1 in 5 in natural sciences

By 2020, there will be 3,008 professors (FTE) at Dutch universities. This does not include the more than 1,600 professors (persons) in health care (2018). In addition, there are 1,198 associate professors (persons). The number of professors is rising slightly. If we exclude Health Care, Natural Sciences has the most professors (591 FTE) and Agriculture the least (115 FTE). See also the figure below.

Health professors not included in the statistics

We do not include the HOOP classification Health in the statistics because there is no consistent multi-year series of them. This is because the employment of health professors has partly been transferred from the universities to the university medical centres. In total, 28% of the professors at the Dutch umc's will be women in 2021 (Monitor female professors; 2021). In 2018, this was 24%.

26% of professors are women

Only 25.7% of all professors in the Netherlands are women. This means that the Netherlands is lagging behind internationally (source: She Figures, EC). Slowly but surely, more women professors are becoming involved in all fields of science. See also the figure below.

A quarter of professors by special appointment are women

In addition to professors on the university payroll, universities also have another group of professors: professors by special appointment. They are not part of the official staff, but are financed from special sources. Often these are stakeholders of the university (companies or institutions) that find it interesting for their own policy to fund a chair at a university. Through the Narcis database, we can map the size and development of this group of scientists from 2013 onwards.

The number of professors by special appointment went from 1,259 in 2013 to 1,360 in 2016 and 1,098 in 2021. The number of male professors by special appointment has been declining, while the number of female professors has remained more or less constant at around 280 since 2016. This is the same as the percentage of female 'regular' professors. See also the figure below.

We can also say something about the fields of science in which the professors by special appointment work. Although the same professor in Narcis can fall under several areas, most professors by special appointment work in Life Sciences, Medicine, and Health Care (27%). This is followed by Natural Sciences and Engineering (15%). Some professors have been counted twice. Women are the most represented in Behavioural Sciences and Educational Sciences (45%) and in Social Sciences (37%).

Labour market for professors: more dynamic than previously thought

Professor is the highest academic position at the university. For some professors, it is also their final function prior to retirement. However, the labour market for professors is more dynamic than it seems. The following figures, among others, demonstrate this:

  • Each year, professors come and go in significant numbers: every seven years, half of all professorial positions are filled by others.
  • Of the new professors, 63% come from other positions within Dutch universities, while 37% are recruited from outside Dutch universities.
  • About a quarter of the departing professors leave because of retirement and a quarter fill another position within the universities, such as another chair or a management position.
  • More than half leave for a position outside the Dutch university world. For them, the professorship is not an end function but an interim function in their career.


In the academic world, there are many complaints about the increased workload, also among professors. There is no systematic research into work pressure across all universities and disciplines in the Netherlands.

In 2022, the Rathenau Instituut conducted research into what motivates researchers and teachers and how they spend their time. This showed that professors spend 20% of their time on management tasks, 8% on acquisition, 5% on knowledge transfer, 30% on teaching, 19% on supervising researchers and 15% on conducting research themselves. They would prefer to have fewer management tasks and to carry out more research.

There are also indicators that point to an increased workload. For example, in the period 2003-2016, the number of PhDs increased by 86%. The number of master's degrees also increased by 57% (CBS figures). The number of professors increased by 16% (UNL/ WOPI figures, excluding university hospitals). So per professor there are more PhDs and more Master's students.

The number of scientific publications (of all scientists together) also rose from 20,000 in 2004 to 33,000 in 2013 (+65%). The pressure to acquire money in competition has also increased. For instance, for a number of disciplines and grant types, the chances of winning grants through the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) or Horizon 2020 are below 20%.


UNL: WOPI data (Dutch website)

Landelijk netwerk vrouwelijke hoogleraren: Monitor vrouwelijke hoogleraren 2012 , 2015-2019. (Monitor female professors)

European Commission, She figures 2015 gender in research and innovation. Brussels 2015

I. Robeyns. Waarom een lagere werkdruk zo belangrijk is. DUB opinion paper: March 2015

Koens, L., R. Hofman & J. de Jonge (2018). What motivates researchers? Research excellence is still a priority. The Hague: Rathenau Instituut

DANS 2018: National Academic Research and Collaborations Information System - NARCIS 2013-2019

Statistics Netherlands: Statline