Master in Social and Cultural Anthropology


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)

Are you fascinated by the social and cultural complexity of human communities? Are you excited about delving into the nitty-gritty reality of how people experience daily life all over the world? Are you ready to not only learn about anthropology but to put it into practice by conducting fieldwork of your own? Then the Master’s programme in Social and Cultural Anthropology may be for you! You will gain a firm theoretical foundation in anthropology while developing strong qualitative research skills.

The programme teaches you to apply anthropology to the challenges facing us in today’s globalizing world. You will gain in-depth insights into a variety of topics, ranging from Islam in Europe, to politics and power, to urban anthropology and anthropology of crises, to migration, development and globalization. You will participate in public debates and write blogs and articles that communicate anthropological knowledge about the way people live around the world.

Study programme

The programme in short
  • You will receive a theoretical foundation in Mobility, Diversity & Development.
  • You will choose a specialization:
    - Mobility & Diversity.
    - Development & Sustainability.
    - City, Space & Politics.
  • You will receive rigorous skills training in qualitative methods, visual methods and ethnographic writing.
  • You will receive individual guidance from a staff member throughout the programme.
  • You will conduct your own three-month fieldwork project.
  • You will write a Master’s thesis based on your fieldwork.

Programme structure

  • September – December: You will receive a comprehensive theoretical orientation on Mobility, Diversity & Development and choose a profile. You will also prepare for your fieldwork by completing your research proposal and getting intensive training in ethnographic research skills.
  • January – March: You will carry out your field research. You can choose any topic or region as long as it is related to the overarching themes in our programme. You can also join one of the many ongoing staff projects.
  • April – June: You will write your Master’s thesis, in which you analyze the empirical data from your fieldwork and connect it to anthropological theory. You will receive support from a weekly graduate seminar, which will guide you through the writing process, as well as meetings with your individual supervisor.

Career prospects

Anthropologists today are key players in development, governance, social work, culture and education. Your coursework and fieldwork will help you develop the skills to:

  • Analyze complex situations.
  • Question the obvious.
  • Document perspectives and agendas of different stakeholders.
  • Understand intercultural sensitivities and group identities.
  • Resolve conflicts.
  • These skills are highly valued in both the public and private sectors.

What types of jobs use anthropology?
Your theoretical orientation, thematic specialization, rigorous skills training and intensive fieldwork experience will make you widely sought after for a wide variety of career opportunities, such as:

  • Research in academic or non-academic institutes.
  • Strategic work with NGOs.
  • Policymaking in development, aid or governance.
  • Consulting for private enterprises.
  • Journalism.

Other areas in which employers seek anthropological skills include:

  • Human resources
  • Intercultural communication
  • Tourism
  • The museum sector
  • Marketing research
  • Design anthropology

If you want to pursue an academic career, this programme’s strong fieldwork and research focus provide excellent preparation for a PhD.

Why VU Amsterdam?

An inspiring learning environment
Our international, English-language programme attracts students from all over the world. You will be part of a truly diverse student body. You will also study in a lively and engaging environment, which facilitates constructive interaction between students and staff. The academic staff are all involved in initiatives that address current issues such as the migrant crisis in Europe or large-scale land acquisitions in Africa. This will bring the world to the classroom, allowing you to apply the theory you learn to real situations.

Pursue your own interests
You will receive a unique combination of course instruction and supervision on critical global issues. And your individual initiative and freedom will be nurtured within research projects. Due to the small scale of our education and the dedication of our staff, you will receive individual guidance and supervision throughout the entire programme. Our staff will also support you in choosing a specialization. In fact, there is hardly a topic or region that is not covered by the expertise of the staff, which will give you free rein in pursuing your research interests and ambitions.

Real fieldwork experience
Anthropologists distinguish themselves from other social scientists with their strong qualitative research skills that apply anthropological knowledge to the social reality around us. To help you hone these skills and gain professional experience, you will engage in a three-month field research project of your own. This encourages independent and self-driven research that will prepare you for doctoral research or anthropological work outside the university setting.

Great location
Amsterdam is a great place to study, with excellent city-wide public transportation, and everything a cosmopolitan European city can offer. Not only that, but Amsterdam also prides itself on its great diversity, boasting the largest number of different nationalities in the world.

Admission with an international bachelor's degree

The Master’s degree programme in Social & Cultural Anthropology is an international programme. To gain admission, you must hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university in Anthropology or a related discipline. You must have had qualitative social sciences research methodology and good grades. You also need an excellent working command of English.

How to apply

To apply for the programme, you need to register in Studielink. Once you have completed your registration in Studielink, you will receive log in details for the portal in VUnet. You must complete your application in VUnet by uploading the following required documents:
  1. Certified copy of your original Bachelor’s degree certificate. The certified degree must be in English or be translated into English by your university or a sworn translator. If you have yet to obtain your degree, you can ask the registrar of your university to provide an official statement to the effect that your are certain to graduate before 1 September.
  2. A transcript of the grades you obtained in your Bachelor’s programme. The certified transcript must be in English or be translated into English by your university or by a sworn translator. If you have followed or are following a master’s programme and/or more than one bachelor’s programme, please include transcripts of all these programmes.
  3. A clearly legible copy of the page(s) in your passport (or ID-card if you are an EU student) that contain(s) your personal data. A copy of a passport / ID card that is no longer valid will not be accepted.
  4. A curriculum vitae (in English).
  5. A Bachelor's or Master's thesis (in English). Or if you have not finished your thesis yet, a sample of an academic writing in English (about five pages in length). We will check your sample for plagiarism as one of the first steps of the evaluation procedure.
  6. A description of the courses you have taken during your bachelor’s programme, you can either copy this from the study guide or type 5-10 sentences for each course yourself (written in English). Emphasize the ones that you think are relevant for the proposed Master Programme. If you have not yet graduated, please also include an overview of courses with course descriptions which you are following or going to follow before graduation.
  7. A letter of motivation. Also, if applicable, please specify in this letter, the name of the specialization you are applying for.

Application fee and Deadlines

All students seeking admission to an international Bachelor’s or Master’s programme with an international degree are required to pay a non-refundable €100 application fee. Only after you have paid this fee will we be able to start the evaluation of your application file. If you are applying for more than one programme, you will only need to pay the application fee once. Your application fee payment is valid for two years.

Overview Social and Cultural Anthropology

  • 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
  • Specializations: Molbility & Diversity; Depelopment & Sustainability; City, Space & Politics
  • Field of interest: Behavioural and Social Sciences

Last updated Feb 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 23,00 ... 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 23,000 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. Read less