Master in International Crimes, Conflict and Criminology


Program Description

Application deadline update

  • Non-EU/EEA students: 1 May (the original deadline of 1 April has been extended due to COVID-19)
  • EU/EEA students and students who do not need a study visa/residence permit through VU Amsterdam*: 1 June (the original deadline of 1 May has been extended due to COVID-19)

Crimes against humanity, terrorism and organized crime

How can a child soldier become a torturer? Can the International Criminal Court prosecute terrorists? How does human trafficking in the Sinaï work? In this Master’s programme, you’ll uncover all aspects of crimes related to conflict, focusing on the role of individuals, groups, states and the international community. You’ll delve deep into the psychology of perpetrators, learn about criminological theories on organizational processes, and discuss justice responses at local, national and international level.

International Crimes, Conflict and Criminology

In an ever more complex and globalized world, war, terrorism and criminality are increasingly intertwined. Conflicts lead to looting, killing, recruitment of child soldiers, genocide - and even terrorism. They can also lead to cross-border crimes such as human trafficking, kidnappings and wildlife crimes. International organizations, non-governmental (interest) groups and governments are confronted with questions about how to prevent and respond to these criminal acts, and how to deal with their harmful consequences. But a lack of knowledge means that effective responses often never get off the ground.

This Master’s programme is unique in several ways: literally, in that it’s not offered by any other university in the world. But also in its scope, because you’ll learn to combine insights and methodologies from several different disciplines: criminology, law, psychology, sociology and political science. And finally, our university is close to The Hague – home to the UN’s International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court – the legal capital of the world. This programme will truly prepare you for an international career in the field.

Study programme

International Crimes, Conflict and Criminology is a one-year, full-time programme taught entirely in English. You’ll learn to analyse why people commit crimes in times of conflict (etiology), how to measure and investigate these crimes (prevalence), and how to critique modes of transitional justice (reaction). But the course isn’t just theoretical: you’ll have active discussions about international criminal law, and you’ll get the chance to apply criminological, sociological and psychological theories and methods to real-world case studies.

The ultimate aim of the programme is to understand why and in what contexts criminal acts take place, and what the suitable responses should be. This isn’t just an academic programme – it’s training for your professional career. You’ll have the tools to look at the evidence objectively, get hands-on experience in the field, challenge criminology theories, draft up policies to fight crime, and develop strategies to prevent future crimes.

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The goals of this Master’s programme are to:

  • Measure and map conflict-related crimes;
  • Define and conceptualize conflict-related crimes;
  • Explore the consequences and measure the costs of conflict-related crimes;
  • Study the causes of conflict-related crimes;
  • Analyse ways to effectively prevent and react to this type of criminality.

The following real-life case studies are covered by the programme:

  • The genocide in Rwanda and the civil war in former Yugoslavia;
  • The history and political context of the ad-hoc tribunals and the International Criminal Court;
  • Case law: command responsibility, superior orders, joint criminal enterprise;
  • Transitional justice processes in Colombia, South Africa, Angola and Afghanistan;
  • The involvement of corporations in human rights violations in the oil and mining industries;
  • Social psychology: Stanford Prison experiment, Milgram;
  • Conflict and terrorism in Syria, Libya and Iraq;
  • Transnational crimes: human trafficking, weapons trade, wildlife crimes;
  • Internal displacement and forced migration.

Schedule and courses
The academic year in the Netherlands runs from September to June, and is divided into a semester system. July and August are holiday months.
The programme consists of three compulsory courses in the first semester, and a choice of several optional courses in the second semester. You’ll conclude the programme with an interdisciplinary Master’s thesis focused on conflict-related crimes.

Here are just three examples of courses offered in the programme:

  • Atrocity Actors: Perpetrators, Bystanders and Victims
    Who are the people involved in atrocities? Why do perpetrators commit crimes like rape, torture and genocide? Why do so few people actively intervene? What are the consequences for victims? The aim of this course is to truly understand the psychology of the actors involved in atrocities.
  • International Criminal Courts and Tribunals
    Learn more about the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Of course, to understand the inner workings of the International Criminal Court, you’ll need to take field trips to The Hague – the legal capital of the world is just a 30-minute train ride from the VU. Guest lectures from criminology experts complete the package.
  • Corporations, Conflict and Crimes
    Understand why and to what extent businesses are involved in gross human rights violations and international crimes. Use insights, knowledge and theories from disciplines such as history, social psychology, organizational sciences, business ethics and political science to complement your criminological approach.

Every April, you have the opportunity to join the ‘Transitional justice in reality’ field trip to Bosnia. See our Facebook group for more details

Programme schedule 2018/2019
Additional course descriptions

All schedules are subject to change.

A Master of Science (MSc) degree is awarded to all students who earn a minimum of 60 credits. Credits are listed according to the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), which is based on your workload – including hours spent in class, studying, writing papers and completing assignments. A full academic year is equivalent to 60 EC, one semester to 30 EC.

Career prospects

After graduating, you could look forward to a career in:

  • International criminal courts and tribunals
  • National prosecutions services and police
  • Europol, Eurojust
  • Intergovernmental organisations such as the UN, IOM
  • Human rights organisations
  • Refugee organisations
  • Ministries and think tanks
  • Universities or other research institutes
  • Journalism

Why VU Amsterdam?

Interdisciplinary perspective
The programme uses many different disciplines to approach conflict-related crimes – including insights from criminology, sociology, psychology, international criminal law and political science.

Strong research links to practice and academic research
You’ll visit all the important legal institutions in The Hague, while international experts regularly teach guest lectures and provide research seminars. If your grades are particularly high, you might be invited to take part in the research projects run by researchers at the Faculty's Centre for International Criminal Justice and the selective International Law Clinic course.

International and diverse
We attract and bring together a select group of highly skilled and motivated students from various backgrounds and nationalities. They have one thing in common, though: a deep desire to analyse, understand and help combat international crimes and gross human rights violations. In recent years, lawyers, journalists, criminologists, psychologists, sociologists, historians and many others have taken this programme. We have alumni from across the globe, including Rwanda, Colombia, Afghanistan, Armenia, Sudan, the United States, Canada and the EU. This diversity makes the exchange of knowledge and experiences even more stimulating. VU Amsterdam is the only university in the Netherlands, and one of the few universities in the world, to offer this specialization – giving you truly unique skills and experience to kick off your international career.

Admission requirements

This Master is selective and open to a limited number of students only. The Admissions Board selects on merit.

Factors which will be taken into account are:

  • a GPA of at least 3 or an overall grade average of B or 7.3
  • a student's level of interdisciplinarity
  • a student's level of English language proficiency
  • relevant experience (e.g. internship and (voluntary) work)
  • general impression of the candidate based on letter of motivation; letter(s) of recommendation, and proof of academic writing

These criteria are of equal importance.

Applicants must show a special interest in conflict related crimes, political violence, international crimes and/or international criminal justice and support this with documentary evidence.

Applicants with an academic Bachelor's degree in Law (LLB), Criminology, Social Sciences, Political Science or Psychology or any other related subject can apply.

Applicants who do not meet the abovementioned requirements may also apply, their application will be assessed on:

  • talent and motivation
  • proficiency in research methods and techniques.

Your previous education is compared to and valued through the UK Naric comparison system and, if necessary, through the Nuffic comparison and validation programmes. Especially students from non-EU countries should factor in the possibility that a relevant Bachelor’s degree could not be sufficient to enter into this Master of Science programme and their application could result in a rejection.

Admission on the basis of a degree from a University of Applied Sciences alone is not possible. Applicants with a relevant Applied Sciences degree and a relevant premaster (in Law, Criminology, Social or Political sciences or Psychology) may apply. The faculty does not offer a premaster for the ICC Master.

For this Master’s programme a minimum C1 proficiency in English is required. This requirement is met if no longer than two years before the start of the programme, the applicant has successfully completed one of the following examinations with at least the scores indicated:

  • IELTS: minimum total score ≥ 7.0, minimum score per test section: 6.5
  • TOEFL paper based test: 600
  • TOEFL PBT: minimum total score 68, minimum score per test section: 22
  • TOEFL iBT (internet based test): minimum total score ≥ 100, minimum score per test section: 22
  • C1 Advanced (formerly Cambridge Advanced English): minimum score B
  • C2 Proficiency (formerly Cambridge English: Proficiency): minimum score C

Exemption is granted to students who:

  • have completed their secondary education or an academic degree in the Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, New Zealand or Australia; or
  • have an English-language ‘international baccalaureate’ diploma; or
  • have earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an accredited English-taught programme in the EU

The proof of English proficiency can be submitted after the application deadline, but must have been received by the faculty before the start of the programme. Without an English proficiency test score which meets the specifications mentioned above or a waiver, you cannot start the programme.

Application procedure

Application is possible from 1 October. The application deadline is:

1 February for international students applying for one of the VU scholarships
1 April for international degree holders from non-EU/EEA countries
1 June for degree holders from EU/EAA countries

International students applying for university accommodation are strongly advised to apply before 1 April.

Application steps

  1. Register via Studielink.
  2. After registering you will receive log-in details for VUnet.
  3. Upload the following application documents via VUnet (preferably PDF format):
    1. certified copy of academic degree or if not yet graduated: declaration from your home university with an expected graduation date;
    2. certified transcript in English of grades obtained so far;
    3. curriculum vitae;
    4. letter of motivation, explaining your reasons for wishing to participate in the programme;
      (maximum 1500 words)
    5. proof of academic writing in English:
      • Write an essay: introduce and answer the following research question:
        What are the differences between international crimes and (transnational) organized crime?
        (max. 1000 words including references)
      • Upload the essay as document type thesis; this is your proof of academic writing in English- do not submit your thesis itself;
    6. 2 letters of recommendation from academic referees (if possible including the ranking position of the applicant); we prefer digital copies uploaded in VUnet, but referees may also mail their references directly to;
    7. copy of passport and copy of residence permit (if applicable);
  4. If applicable to you: send English language test score to, this may be sent at a later stage(see Language requirements for details).
  5. As soon as all required application documents have been received, your dossier is submitted to the Admissions board. Please note that your dossier must be complete on the application deadline! Incomplete dossiers cannot be taken into consideration.
    The Admissions board may ask for additional information on your academic record if this is deemed necessary to come to a decision.
  6. You receive a decision according to the schedule below.
  7. If you have been admitted: finalize your application.

You will receive practical information regarding the start of the programme during the summer.

Overview International Crimes and Criminology.

  • Language of instruction: English
  • Duration: 1 year
  • Application deadline: 1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.
  • Start date: 1 September
  • Study type: Full-time
  • Field of interest: Economics, Business and Law, Behavioural and Social Sciences

Last updated Jul 2020

About the School

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to over ... Read More

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to over 26,000 students from all over the world. Students and staff of 122 nationalities create a dynamic international academic community. The University distinguishes itself in research and education through four interdisciplinary themes: Human Health and Life Sciences, Science for Sustainability, Connected World and Governance for Society. Curious about student life at VU Amsterdam? Click here to ask our International Student Ambassadors. Read less