Classics and Ancient Civilizations: Research Master

Disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives on the material and literary culture of Antiquity

The research Master's programme aims to deliver well equipped researchers in the field of Ancient Studies: Classics, Archaeology, Ancient History and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. It focuses on the cultures and societies of the Mediterranean region, Western Europe and Western Asia in the period from c. 1600 BC to 500 AD. 

The programme offers a good mix of disciplinary and interdisciplinary teaching and research. Disciplinary because the programme builds on the specializations offered in your Bachelor's programme; interdisciplinary because you make use of the results of related disciplines during the so-called 'core courses'. These are two interdisciplinary courses, in which members of the teaching staff from various disciplines from the department of Archaeology, Classics and Near Eastern Studies teach you how to approach a shared research theme from different perspectives and to provide theoretical underpinning for this theme.

Opting for the research Master’s programme will bring you into an inspiring research environment. The department of Archaeology, Classics and Near Eastern Studies has been extremely successful of recent years in creating research opportunities for doctoral and postdoctoral research students, including large thematic projects which have room for a number of doctoral and postdoctoral research students.

The research Master’s programme in Classics and Ancient Civilizations starts in September each year. The degree programme lasts two years, full-time. Part-time study is not possible.

Students follow a highly specialized, individualized study programme and therefore receive close personal supervision from their assigned mentors.

Six specializations

The research Master’s programme is not formally separated into different tracks, but by way of suggestion, there are a number of specializations. These are clusters of electives which cover the research interests of the various members of the teaching staff. These clusters offer students a basis for filling in their own individual study programmes in consultation with their mentor. The following specializations are now available:
  • Ancient Studies
  • Ancient History
  • Classics
  • Landscape and Heritage
  • Mediterranean Archaeology
  • Archaeology of Northwestern Europe

For students with an interest in Babylonian/Assyrian languages and culture, the Ancient Studies specialization offers Advanced Akkadian courses as well.

Structure of the programme

The Master’s programme comprises the following main elements:
  • two core modules  (18 ECTS credits)
  • two modules on research design (12 ECTS credits)
  • courses taught at a national Research School (at least 10 ECTS credits)
  • a number of specialized modules (courses partly shared with the one-year ACASA MA programmes or courses taken abroad); the choice of these modules will depend strongly on the specialization you choose (30 ECTS credits)
  • tutorials (up to 24 ECTS credits);
  • a final thesis (30 ECTS credits)

On completion of this degree programme, you will receive the title of Master of Arts (MA).

Core modules
The two core modules are specially designed for this research Master’s programme and are taught once every two years (alternating). These interdisciplinary courses will introduce you to various research perspectives and traditions.

  • The Core Course Text and Matter (12 ECTS) deals specifically with the combination of textual and material sources in one’s research. This issue is illustrated by means of a theme, for instance ‘Popular vs. Elite Culture’ or ‘Warfare and Collective Violence’. 
  • The Core Course Interdisciplinary Theme (6 ECTS) deals with other forms of interdisciplinarity, for instance the use of social scientific theory or political history in textual and archaeological research. Themes chosen in past courses include ‘Politics, Culture and Propaganda’ and ‘Ethnic Identity in Antiquity’.

Research Design: Courses in academic English and in writing research applications
The Research Design courses have also been developed for Research Master’s students only. Applying for the funds needed for research is an important part of an academic career. These courses explains the various possibilities in this field and includes the writing of a research grant application. Students will also be  taught how to write good academic English and receive feedback on the research plan for their final thesis. 

Courses taught at a national Research School
All Research Master’s students need to follow courses (worth at least 10 ECTS) developed by the Netherlands School of Archaeological Research, ARCHON, or the Dutch National Graduate School in Classical Studies, OIKOS. These courses are followed mainly by Research Master’s students and PhD students. 

Specialized modules
There is room for at least 30 ECTS worth of electives (5 courses). Some of these courses were developed specially for this research Master’s programme, others are taken from a the ACASA one-year Master’s programmes. Depending on your specialization, you can choose from a broad range of courses in Northwest European Archaeology, Mediterranean Archaeology, Near Eastern Archaeology, Ancient History, Heritage, Classics, and ancient Semitic languages. For students who specialize in Classics the Editing and Commenting Technique Module is compulsory (6 ECTS)

In tutorials (up to 24 ECTS) you work on a particular topic with individual supervision from an experienced researcher. The topic selected will often be closely related to that of your Master’s thesis.

The Master’s thesis contains a description of an independent study of a topic of your choice in your particular field within the domain of Classics and Ancient Civilizations. You will receive individual supervision by a member of the teaching staff during the process. Outstanding Master’s theses may form the basis of a PhD study on the same or a related topic.

Classics & Ancient Civilizations: Research courses in the study guide.

Academic career
The research Master’s programme in Classics and Ancient Civilizations is the ideal stepping stone to an academic career in the field of Archaeology, Classics, Ancient history or Assyriology of the first millennium BC. It opens the way to doctoral research at a university or research institute. There are currently a total of 26 doctoral students and 4 postdoctoral students in the department of Ancient Studies and Archaeology. We aim to increase the number of doctoral students in the near future, so if you do well in your research Master’s programme, you stand a good chance of being accepted for a doctoral study at VU Amsterdam.

The Faculty of Arts at VU Amsterdam offers a number of fully paid PhD studentships each year for doctoral students who submit a good research proposal that is in line with the Faculty’s research programme. There are also a number of research projects at the department of Ancient Studies funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)

Other options
The research Master’s programme Classics and Ancient Civilizations does not just train students to be academic researchers. You can find our alumni in challenging and interesting jobs as an archaeologist, classicist or consultant in archaeology firms, in museums of classical antiquity, in government services, in university libraries or as a science editor for a newspaper or magazine. Or if you want to go into teaching, you can become a university lecturer or a lecturer in higher professional education (HBO). Those who obtain their degree and have taken at least 60 ECTS worth of archaeology courses, are entitled to registration in the Dutch Register of Archaeologists.

The two universities in Amsterdam have joined forces by setting up ACASA (Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology). As a result, they offer you the widest package of Master’s degree programmes in the field of Ancient studies in the Netherlands.

Lectures will be given both at VU Amsterdam and at the University of Amsterdam. Students of Classics and Ancient Civilization (Research) are enrolled at the VU Amsterdam, but it makes no difference with regards to the composition of your degree programme, the choice of your specializations or who supervises your Master’s thesis. You can choose courses and tutors from both universities.  

Norah Karrouche



"Classics and Ancient Civilizations at VU Amsterdam opens up new horizons, literally and figuratively. I came from Leuven to study at VU Amsterdam because they have a great deal of expertise in the field of ethnicity research. You are given enough room to tailor your study plan to your own interests, and you get excellent supervision in a stimulating environment. I was able to study anthropology for example, take papyrology lectures at Leiden and of course take the interdisciplinary lecture on ethnicity."

Marco van der Schuur


"I chose the research Master’s programme in Classics and Ancient Civilizations to get the most out of my studies of Greek and Latin language and culture. The fact that the degree programme lasts two years and you are almost completely free to choose the subjects you want to study means that you get a wide overview of the field while still really focusing in depth on your own subject. For example, I am taking intensive lectures on Latin poetry and the theory of literature this year for my major, but still have time for completely different subjects such as Historical Grammar. The other great advantage of this Master’s programme is the interdisciplinary approach, which forces you to look beyond the boundaries of your own specialism – in the research you are doing too."

Synkratos is an association for students who study Classics or Ancient Studies. Since we were established in 1988, we welcome everyone who is interested in the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world or who is just looking to socialize. Each year we offer a variety of social and cultural activities, varying from lectures, evenings with board games, visits to museums and sporting activities.

We also offer a cultural trip once a year to a beautiful destination with a focus on the ancient world. Usually, we can be found in the main building of the VU, but you can also contact us through Facebook or by sending a mail to

Do Ancient Studies, with their interdisciplinary character, cover the various topics deeply enough? Are graduates of this degree programme recognized in professional practice as archaeology, classics or history specialists?

The answer to both questions is Yes. The in-depth coverage and the necessary degree of specialization are guaranteed by your choice of track and the content of your specialized modules, the tutorials and your Master’s thesis. A student with a Bachelor’s degree in Archaeology will tend to focus on archaeological topics, a classicist will take mainly lectures in the field of Greek and Latin, while (Ancient) historians will fill their programme mainly with subjects related to Ancient history. Those who are interested in Mesopotamia will take lectures on the language and culture of Mesopotamia. Hardly any academics are entirely monodisciplinary any more nowadays. The advantage of the training you get at VU Amsterdam compared with the courses given elsewhere is that you are not only trained to be a good specialist in your own field but are also taught to take an interdisciplinary approach.

Is the level of the course adequate when students with such a wide range of Bachelor’s qualifications are admitted? How can students with an archaeology degree (where knowledge of classical languages plays hardly any role) and those with a degree in Greek and Latin language and culture (which is mainly focused on the study of language and literature) possibly get along together in the same Master’s programme?

The level is guaranteed by setting separate admission requirements for each module. An archaeologist is not allowed to take modules on Greek literature, and a classicist cannot take a subject relating to specialized archaeological techniques. An ability to read Greek and Latin texts is required for lectures on Greek and Roman history, while an ability to read cuneiform script is required for lectures on Assyriology. The assignments handed out in the interdisciplinary lectures also take the background of the individual students into account. That is why each student draws up a study plan in consultation with his or her tutor that is in line with his or her previous education.

Aren’t the career prospects of someone with a research Master’s degree worse than those of someone who took a one-year Master’s programme, because the course is so academic?

The level of the research Master’s programme is generally higher than that of a regular Master’s programme. It follows that a student who has taken the research Master’s programme is usually better suited for a position that could also be filled by a graduate with a comparable regular Master’s degree. So opting for a research Master’s programme does not mean that you are more restricted in your career choices – on the contrary! 


Dutch students

The Research Master’s programme in Classics and Ancient Civilizations is aimed at talented students who are exceptionally motivated to be trained in academic methods in the field and are interested in an interdisciplinary approach to it. You can be admitted to the Research Master’s programme if you have a Bachelor’s degree in Archaeology, Greek and Latin language and culture, Ancient Studies (Oudheidwetenschappen), or History with Ancient Studies as specialization from VU Amsterdam or from another university in the Netherlands or abroad, if you meet the following further requirements:

  • you received a mark of 7.5 (in 10-point scale; or equivalent in a different scale) or more for your Bachelor’s thesis;
  • your average mark for a package of relevant subjects, as determined by the Board of Admissions, was 7.5 (or equivalent) or higher;
  • the Bachelor’s thesis and projects' reports from your Bachelor’s programme, show that you have appreciable research skills;

All lectures and student presentations are in English, as are all written assignments. Therefore all prospective students must be proficient in English. It is strongly recommended that you take the VU courses Academic English: Grammar and Academic English: Writing (or similar courses at another university) in your Bachelor programme.

Additional information for Classicists
In case you have a full BA in Greek and Latin and decide to specialize in Greek and Latin in your Research Master’s programme, you will be eligible to start the Teacher Training Programme in Greek and Latin upon completion of your MA degree.

Application for Dutch students and international candidates with a Dutch degree
If you wish to be admitted to the research Master’s programme in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (120 ECTS credits), you must apply to the Admission Board before June 1st.

Your application will consist of the following documents:

  • a letter of application
  • your CV
  • a research proposal (brief indication of your research interest, c. 200 words)
  • an overview of the results of any other relevant courses you have taken (diplomas and transcripts of records)

It is advisable to discuss your research proposal with a member of the teaching staff for this degree programme, in order to make sure that you submit a good research proposal.

You should combine all the documents requested in a single PDF file, which you can e-mail to the Admission Board of the Faculty of Humanities (

In addition to the application procedure above, you must also register for the course via Studielinkbefore June 1st. After registration in Studielink you will receive an e-mail giving your log-in code for VUnet, the student portal of VU Amsterdam. You can complete your registration in VUnet, including details of your proposed specialization.

Not a student of the Faculty of Humanities at VU Amsterdam?
During this step you will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • Transcript of records (scan from original)
  • Course descriptions (i.e. for courses related to the discipline of the Master, and for courses on general academic skills)
  • List of literature (the most important literature used for the courses)
  • CV
  • Motivation letter (max. one A4)

Please prepare these documents before you're going to complete your application in VUnet!

Your application will be reviewed by the Admission Board of the Faculty of Humanities. You will be informed whether you have been admitted via Studielink.

Candidates with an HBO (higher professional education) qualification
Students with a higher professional education qualification cannot proceed directly to the Research Master’s programme in Classics and Ancient Civilizations. They will have to complete a Bachelor’s degree programme (or a short-track Bachelor’s programme) first.

For questions about the programme
Please contact the programme coordinator:

Prof.dr. R.B. ter Haar Romeny

Come meet us at the next Master's Event!

International students

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

You can be admitted to the Research Master’s programme if you have a Bachelor’s degree in Archaeology, Greek and Latin language and culture, Ancient Studies (Oudheidwetenschappen), or History with Ancient Studies as specialization, and if you meet the following further requirements:

  • you received a mark of 7.5 (in 10-point scale; or equivalent in a different scale) or more for your Bachelor’s thesis.
  • your average mark for a set of relevant subjects, as determined by the Examination Board, was 7,5 (or equivalent) or higher.
  • the Bachelor’s thesis and projects' reports from your Bachelor’s programme, show that you have appreciable research skills.

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a  full high school/International Baccalaureate in English or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can already apply online without having the test results. In case you haven’t taken a test yet we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the English taught programmes at the Faculty of Humanities:

  • TOEFL score (score 600 paper based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250 computer based or score 100 internet based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests).
  • IELTS score of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5).
  • Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C.

Please check the requirements page for the general requirements.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required. 

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online
Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents) 
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcript of records 
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education and a list of all the main literature

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information
Tuition fees

The VU Fellowship Programme
The VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP) is a highly selective scholarship for strongly motivated international students with excellent study results. If you want to apply to the VUFP, you will need to complete the scholarship application as well as the Master’s programme application by February1st.

For questions about the programme
Please contact the programme coordinator:

Prof.dr. R.B. ter Haar Romeny

For practical questions regarding your application
Please contact:

Irena Paap
International Student Advisor
T +31 (20) 59 85252

Come meet us at the next Master's Event!

Some international students are happy to tell you about their experiences with living and studying in Amsterdam. These Student Ambassadors come from all over the world and have attended various bachelor's and master's programmes.

Our student ambassadors are listed here on this webpage:

Reach out to them and get their stories about being a student at VU Amsterdam!

Overview Classics and Ancient Civilizations: Research




2 years


1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.


1 September




or Literary/cultural


Art, Culture and History