He studied economic and social history (M.A., 1980) and public law (LL.M., 1982) at the Free University of Amsterdam (VU). He obtained his Ph.D. in law in 1992 at the same university with a thesis on government regulation and civil society organisations.
From 1982 to 1984 he was a legal affairs policy officer at the Netherlands Universities Council. He then served on the staff of the policy institute of the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA) until 1998. As senior staff member he was responsible for social, economic and financial affairs. Balkenende was a member of Amstelveen municipal council from 1982 to 1998. From 1993 to 2002 he was professor (part-time) of Christian social thought on society and economics at the Faculty of Economics of the Free University of Amsterdam.
From 1998 to 2002 he was a member of the House of Representatives of the States General for the CDA and financial spokesperson for the CDA parliamentary party. He was leader of the parliamentary party from 1 October 2001.
On 22 July 2002, Professor Balkenende was appointed Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs in the first of four administrations to bear his name. His fourth term of office as Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs ran from 22 February 2007 to 14 October 2010. During this period he also served as chair of the Innovation Platform. Under his leadership, many reforms in the fields of social security, pre-pension facilities, public health, deregulation etc. were achieved. He played a very active international role, in Europe (presidency of the European Council in the second half of 2004), in the G20 and in the UN (with a special emphasis on issues like sustainable development, Millennium Development Goals and the WTO).
Since 1 December 2010 he has been professor of Governance, Institutions and Internationalisation at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Since 1 April 2011 he has been partner at Ernst & Young. In this capacity he is responsible for international affairs, corporate responsibility and advisory activities on public-private issues.
Professor Balkenende has received five honorary doctorates – of universities in Budapest, Tokyo, Seoul, New York and Holland, MI – and other honours including ninet Grand Crosses (including Knight Grand Cross in the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau) and several international prizes.
Professor Balkenende was a Counsellor at One Young World Summits: 2012 in Pittsburgh.