Operations Research Theory is a specialization of the Econometrics and Operations Research master's programme.

If you are interested in a career-defining the rules of the game of industry and production practice by having a deep understanding of the possibilities of cutting-edge techniques, if you want to pursue an academic career, or if you just love the mathematics of operations research, then the Operations Research Theory specialization is for you. It offers you deeper knowledge and understanding of this research area and eventually, through the thesis, participate in front-line research in operations research.

Next, to the core courses of the programme, lectures are provided through the Dutch Network on the Mathematics of Operations Research, a collaboration of the top researchers from throughout the Netherlands. This way, the specialization offers the opportunity of learning from a wide range of leading researchers in the field.

The programme challenges you to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the mathematics behind Operations Research models and methods so that you will be able to contribute to the further development of the field. Next to the theory in the core courses, you will also get hands-on experience in turning the models and methods you learn, or design yourself, into practical code.

Study Programme

Four 6 EC compulsory core courses:

  • Combinatorial Optimization
  • Stochastic Gradient Techniques in Optimization and Learning
  • Operations Research Case study
  • Behavioural Operations Research

Three electives from the programme offered by the Dutch Network on the Mathematics of Operations Research (LNMB, Landelijk Netwerk Mathematische Besliskunde).

The LNMB-courses are taught by the best researchers in OR from all over the Netherlands in centrally-located Utrecht. The following courses are offered:

  • Continuous Optimization
  • Discrete Optimization
  • Heuristic Methods in Operations Research
  • Scheduling
  • Advanced Linear Programming
  • Queueing Theory

Thesis (18 EC): work on a challenging research question under the supervision of one of our staff members. If you belong to the very best students of the Operations Research Theory specialization, and you have the creative talents to do research, you may like to do a PhD with us or at any other university in the world.

The one-year master allows the student to attain a double degree by combining it with the second year of another tightly related two-year master's programme, such as Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Industrial Engineering or Business Analytics.

Career Prospects

Your theoretical knowledge, conceptual understanding and creative insight, all tested and expanded in this specialization, will be highly valued by business and industry. Our alumni have leading positions in the companies where they work. This is thanks to their analytical excellence strengthened by the mathematical approach to problems in our Econometrics and Operations Research programme. Many of our best master’s students went on to study for a PhD with us or at universities in other parts of the world.

During your studies, there are plenty of social activities organized by our student association, so that you get to know your future colleagues. After completion of your master's, you will be part of our thriving alumni community.

Graduates in Operations Research are highly desired throughout industry and society. More than 25% of our students already find a position during their master study, and almost all of them find a position within 3 months of graduating. According to a study by Elsevier, the average gross monthly income of graduates from Operations Research and Econometrics in their first year is approximately € 3.300.

Why VU Amsterdam?

Our research team has a broad internationally renowned expertise, by which we are able to offer advanced models and methods from the whole spectrum of Operations Research. Moreover, we allow students to personalize and specialize. The one-year master allows the student to attain a double degree by combining it with the second year of another tightly related two-year master's program, such as Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Industrial Engineering or Business Analytics.

Econometrics and Operations Research is the only master's programme of its kind in the beautiful and exciting city of Amsterdam, a major European business hub. The faculty’s Career Services office supports you with a series of workshops and individual coaching in your transition to the job market. Optimizing your world is not just optimizing your own personal world, but optimizing the world in which you live. Reflection on societal impact is asked in courses, especially in the behavioural course, and in reporting on cases.

Admission with an International Degree

We welcome any student with a great interest in solving optimization problems in the field of Supply Chain Management, Financial Engineering, Data Science, or any other field where mathematical optimization plays a key role in making decisions. Besides being extremely motivated, students should satisfy the admission requirements listed here.

Admission requirements

The master program Econometrics and Operations Research, track Operations Research, is open to students with a university Bachelor's degree that provides a thorough knowledge in mathematics. Additionally, you need to have successfully completed courses and studied literature related to the core of this program, consisting of (or equivalents of):

  • Stochastic modelling
    • S.M. Ross, Introduction to Probability Models, Academic Press, 2009
  • Operations research and deterministic optimization
    • H.A. Taha, Operations Research: An Introduction, Prentice Hall, 2010, Chapter 1-12 or
    • F.S. Hillier and G.J. Lieberman, Introduction to Operations Research, McGraw-Hill, 2005 (8-th ed.). Chapters 1-12

Besides these core courses, the requirements of admission are that the applicant has followed courses in Linear Algebra, Probability Theory, Analysis and Statistics at the level of our Bachelor EOR. The levels of these courses are indicated by the following books:

  • Linear Algebra:
    • D.C. Lay, Linear Algebra and Its Applications, Addison-Wesley, 2013
  • Probability Theory:
    • S.M. Ross, A First Course in Probability, Pearson, 2013
  • Analysis:
    • J.M. Howie, Real Analysis, Springer, 2001
  • Statistics:
    • J.A. Rice, Mathematical Statistics and Data Analysis, Duxbury Press, 2006 or G. Casella and R.L. Berger, Statistical Inference, Cengage Learning, 2008

Furthermore, it is important that students have experience with optimization and numerical programming in, for example, Python, R, Matlab, Java or C/C++. If you can show certified exam results for courses in operations research and mathematics as listed above you are admissible for the master. The equivalence will be evaluated by the Admission Board.

For more information about these course, requirements contact Dr. R.A. Sitters: r.a.sitters@vu.nl.

English language proficiency

The admission board wants to stress the intensity of the programme: reading scientific articles and writing papers will be a key part, all at a very high pace. Your English language skills, both oral and written, are extremely important in this programme. As you will have to communicate frequently with your fellow students and you will be working with and for international companies.

VU Amsterdam requires all applicants to take an English test. You can already apply online without having the test results. We do advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the programme:

IELTS (academic):

  • Minimum general score 6,5
  • Minimum score speaking 6,5
  • Minimum score listening 6,5
  • Minimum score writing 6,0
  • Minimum score reading 6,0


  • Paper-based test 580
  • Internet-based test 92-93

Cambridge English:

  • Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C
  • Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C

The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers the TOEFL ITP English-language proficiency test. The test is offered by the VU Taalloket. You can find more information and register for this test at www.taalloket.nl

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Last updated April 3, 2019
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Sep 1, 2019
1 year
14,600 EUR
EU/EER Student: €2.083 | Non-EU/EER Student: €14.600
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Start Date
Sep 1, 2019
End Date
Sep 1, 2020
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Sep 1, 2019

Application deadline
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for Dutch degree holders and international degree holders from EU/EEA countries
End Date
Sep 1, 2020