Master of Social and Cultural Anthropology (Leuven)


Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description

Anthropology studies the socializing, meaning-making and world-building practices of humans in different places, networks, and settings, all around the world. Social and cultural anthropologists study social processes from the perspectives of the actors involved. Combining an insider's and an outsider's point of view, anthropologists actively engage and theorize the differences and similarities between people across the globe. 

What is the program all about?

Anthropology researches the complex composition and interplay of economic, political, social and cultural dynamics, through the critical and reflexive engagement of the researcher.

As an anthropologist, you study the social and cultural processes of societies from a bottom-up, actor-centered and situational perspective. Doing fieldwork is at the heart of anthropological research and allows for a combination of multiple, specific qualitative methods such as participant observation, in-depth interviews, life histories, audiovisual data collection, etc. A critical and reflective attitude, from the moment you define a topic, throughout the writing process, is what makes anthropological research distinct.

Possible questions you may encounter: How do people shape their religious experiences by using contemporary social media and mobile technology? What is the legacy of colonialism and in what ways does it reveal itself in the contemporary world? How do people deal with physical, symbolic, structural and emotional violence and its consequences? What are the effects of super-diversity on the development of a city? How do newly arrived migrants create kinship relationships?


This 2-year master’s program is divided into two key stages:

Stage one:

In the first stage, you are introduced to larger, more general questions such as "What is culture?" and "What is identity?". You study many forms of human and non-human agency and consider different ways in which people across the world deal with social problems, embedded in particular infrastructures.

You acquire insight into the basic anthropological concepts and theoretical approaches, as well as into the methodological principles and practice of fieldwork. At this stage, there is an emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge and skills as well as the espousal of an anthropological attitude which challenges you to critically analyze perspectives of others, and in doing so, change your own.

Stage two:

In the second stage of the program, you further enhance your research skills while conducting research for your master's thesis. In the Research Seminar, experienced professors and early-career researchers of the faculty's research units (IARA & IMMRC) introduce you to the most recent developments in anthropology and guide you in the process of data analysis and writing. The electives in your individual program, are informed by your particular research interests, but also allow you to explore new territories.

Why study this program?

  • The program trains you in empirical and comparative research methodologies, which challenge your familiar ways of being-in-the-world and the prejudices you hold about yourself and others.
  • Throughout the program, you develop your own research focus through conducting fieldwork, critically analyzing data and writing on this particular topic in your final master's thesis. 
  • Depending on your research topic, students have the opportunity to engage in qualitative research in many different locations around the world, possibly in combination with an Erasmus exchange or a summer school.

Is this the right program for me?

  • You hold an academic bachelor, preferably in the social sciences, human science, humanities or equivalent fields. 
  • You have an interest in contemporary, social phenomena world-wide, and the motivation to professionalize your critical involvement with ethical and cultural issues.   
  • Proficiency in English at all levels (writing, speaking, reading) is essential. 
  • You are inspired by sharing ideas and developing a project with other students.

Career opportunities

Graduates of anthropology have developed the ability to familiarize themselves with other’s perspectives, as well as the scientific rigor to translate their observations in realist representations. They are well-versed in independently setting up, executing and evaluating (research) projects and, educated in an international setting, they are skilled in communicating and reporting effectively in an intercultural environment. Their professionalized sensitivity to the complexity of issues of difference, spatiality, movement … makes them valued in numerous fields, both specialist and related:

  • diversity officer
  • cultural and political formation consultants
  • educational consultancy
  • policy advise and policymaking
  • research
  • youth work business and marketing
  • management of socio-cultural organizations

Start your career, during your studies 

During your bachelor's and master's program you can already shape your own profile by choosing a certain specialization, studying abroad (Erasmus), doing a work placement, or starting your own business.

The Student Career Center is happy to put you on the right track towards your first work experience. The center also coaches you in the search for an interesting job and helps you with job interviews. For students wanting to start their own business KU Leuven also has Lcie, the KU Leuven community that encourages students with innovative and entrepreneurial ideas.

Don’t know where to start? The Student Career Center's databases contain offers for jobs, volunteer work, innovation projects, and student jobs. You can also visit one of the events organized by the Career Center.

Last updated Mar 2020

About the School

KU Leuven is an institution for research and education with international appeal. All programmes at this University are based on the innovative research of its scientists and professors and are ranked ... Read More

KU Leuven is an institution for research and education with international appeal. All programmes at this University are based on the innovative research of its scientists and professors and are ranked among the top 100 in the world. Read less
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