Earth Sciences: Global Environmental Change and Policy

Unravel system Earth's past, present and future

Create solutions for the sustainability challenges of the Anthropocene

Earth history has entered the Anthropocene. While inherently a contested concept, the term denotes a new period in Earth history that is characterized by the unprecedented impact of human activities on the Earth’s geological and ecological systems. This specialization integrates the disciplinary insights from Earth Sciences, Environmental Economics and Environmental Policy and Governance to arrive at interdisciplinary solutions to the complex sustainability problems of tomorrow. 

The first year lays the groundwork in the three disciplines and methods of interdisciplinary research, including fieldwork. From a strong grounding in Earth Sciences, we explore integrated approaches towards solving global sustainability challenges by adding the insights of environmental economics and environmental policy studies. Climate change is a central and cross-cutting theme throughout this specialization. In the second year our students can deepen their studies in three distinct streams: energy, ecosystems and biodiversity, and water. Our motto is: “Integrating Earth Sciences, Environmental Economics and Governance to address tomorrow’s complex sustainability challenges”.

For Whom?
The specialization is for students who want to go beyond understanding the earth system, but instead aim to contribute to sustainable solutions by analyzing the broader social, political and economic aspects of global environmental change. Our students are highly motivated, interested in interdisciplinarity, focused on solutions rather than limitations, and equipped with a critical and analytical mind.


The Earth Sciences Master’s programme is divided in three main specializations: Geology and Geochemistry, Earth and Climate, and Global Environmental Change and Policy. All these specializations start with a series of compulsory courses that provide you with a solid basis. This basis is used to further specialize, but selecting one specialization does not mean that you are restricted to just that one subject. You have the option of exploring every aspect of one specific area in great detail if you want to, but you are also free to choose your own subjects for up to a quarter of the required credits.  

Compulsory courses for all specializations in the Earth Science master programme are two individual research projects and a field excursion. 

For information contact: Dr. Gerald Ganssen (programme director): g.m.ganssen@vu.nl

Course descriptions
The Master’s programme in Earth Sciences takes two years and is worth 120 ECTS. 54 ECTS are project-related, involving a company traineeship, an orientation phase at a science journal, or participation in a research project complete with fieldwork, lab work and/or computer modelling.
 
Further information about the Master’s programme in Earth Sciences and course descriptions can be found online at: Earth Sciences courses in the studyguide

A selection of compulsory courses includes:

  • Land-use change and ecosystems
  • Climate Impacts and Policy
  • Advanced Spatial Analysis
  • Designing Interdisciplinary Research
Depending on the stream students choose, the programme offers a variety of electives in energy, ecosystems and biodiversity, and water. In the first year the programme includes a field trip. Students will study caused and solutions to the variety of sustainability problems.


International in scope
The international diversity of faculty members and students involved in Earth Sciences at VU Amsterdam make it a truly international Master’s programme. It is a programme in which the past present and future of our planet is the subject of our study.

Interdisciplinary
VU Amsterdam is renowned for combining Earth Sciences specializations with other subject areas. Earth Sciences is part of  the Faculty of Science, together with Mathematics and Informatics, Physics, Chemistry,  Biology, and Environmental Sciences. When studying Earth Sciences you can choose to become a broadly trained Earth scientist or focus on one of the streams offered within the three specializations.

Small-scale and high profile
The programme’s excellent reputation is partly due to the fact that

  • it is small enough to facilitate personal contact between all participants;
  • it is large enough to encompass the full range of specializations;
  • our  teachers are professionals in education and research with high international profile based on successful fund raising and international awards.

You will receive personal coaching (mentorship) throughout your studies from one of our staff members. This will help you to shape your curriculum, to gain the optimum out of your study, and to prepare for your further career. In that sense, Amsterdam and the programme are much alike: impressive but small enough to make you feel right at home.

At the end of the programme, you will have acquired a sound knowledge of sustainability-related Earth Sciences knowledge, combined with the additional perspectives of economics and governance. This unique combination will enable our graduates to pursue advanced careers in research, consultancy, international organizations and companies, and governments. Graduates will also qualify for national and international sustainability PhD programmes.

Postgraduate degree programmes
After the doctoral or master degree programmes, there are opportunities to continue your educational career in a number of PhD programmes at the Vrije Universiteit, organised within a number of research schools:

  • Inter University Centre for Geo-ecological Research (ICG);
  • Netherlands Research School for the Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment (SENSE);
  • Research School Sedimentary Geology (NSG);
  • Integrated Solid Earth Sciences (ISES). 

The PhD programme always consists of carrying out a research project, leading to a PhD thesis/dissertation, and of several compulsory or elective course modules.

More information on PhD-programmes and Research Schools

Are you curious about how our alumni are getting on? Read the story of Gemma

Spending part of your study in external traineeships and research projects is a good way to prepare for and familiarize yourself with the labour market. The School for Earth and Environmental Sciences does not have a specific office or service mediating in external or internal traineeships and research projects. Students are advised to contact their study advisors/master coordinator or other staff members of faculty, as many of them will have elaborate contacts in trade and industry and external research institutes and universities.

In addition, students can enhance their orientation towards the labour market during 'bedrijvendagen' (business days), organized by GeoVUsie, and by attending seminars given by people from trade and industry. These are organized throughout the year at the faculty.

Overview Earth Sciences: Global Environmental Change and Policy

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

2 years

TUITION FEE

APPLICATION DEADLINE

1 April for non Dutch EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA students*
1 June for holders of a Dutch bachelor’s degree (with a Dutch or EU/EEA nationality).
* non Dutch EU/EEA students with an international degree who do not need housing services through VU Amsterdam can still apply until 1 June.

START DATE

1 September

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

SPECIALIZATIONS

Geology and Geochemistry, Earth and Climate, Global Environmental Change Policy, Science Communication (taught in Dutch), Education (taught in Dutch)

FIELD OF INTEREST

Natural Sciences

Dutch students

General admission requirements

Academic results
Bachelor degree at university level (preferably interdisciplinary) containing:
- at least 6 ec in Earth Sciences at level 300
- at least 6 ec in Environmental Sciences or Sustainability Sciences at level 100

Basic Knowledge or affinity with environmental topics:
- previous study programme, course work, thesis
- relevant work experience (can include volunteer work)

Motivation
The candidate has to submit a motivation letter and resume.
Unfortunately, for Dutch students, it is not possible to upload these documents in VUnet. Dutch students are requested to send these documents to toelating.beta@vu.nl.

These standards apply for Dutch and 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. 

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score.

Specific admission requirements for the MSc Earth Sciences programme:

VU Students
Students who have a BSc from the VU in either earth sciences or the earth & economics (Aarde & Economie) need not apply with a CV and motivation letter to the GECP programme, and are considered direct toelaatbaar.

For all other applicants

Students who hold a certificate of higher vocational education (hbo) or an equivalent of a Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam BSc degree obtained at an institution inside or outside of the Netherlands may be admitted to the Master's programme in Earth Sciences on the basis of a decision to that effect taken by the Admission Board. The Examination Board will determine whether the qualification in question is sufficiently relevant to warrant admission. The Admission Board may place additional requirements on the student before granting admission to the programme.

Contact
In case you wish to contact the Master's coordinator for information or advice you need to know that no rights can be derived from the reply given by the coordinator regarding your admission. Only with the “admission email” you will be officially notified about your conditional or unconditional admission.

Language Requirements
The proficiency requirement in English as the language of instruction can be met, if no longer than two years before the start of the programme the applicant has successfully completed one of the following examinations with the minimum scores indicated:

  • IELTS: 6.5
  • TOEFL paper based test: 580
  • TOEFL internet based test: 92
  • Cambridge Advanced English: A, B or C passed.

This does not hold for students who have a bachelor degree from a Dutch University or from a country where English is the native language.

Please refer to the Language Requirements webpage for the general requirements regarding language proficiency.

Copies of your English test results can be sent to the following addresses: toelating.beta@vu.nl.

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 (only for EU residents)
  • Transcript (Provide a certified translation if it is not in English).
  • Letter of Motivation (only required for the specialization Global Environmental Change and Policy. Please send your letter of motivation to toelating.beta@vu.nl).
  • Résumé (only required for the specialization Global Environmental Change and Policy). Please send your résumé to toelating.beta@vu.nl).

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. Once 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 are admitted, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!  

Step 4: Finalize your registration

Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. When all conditions of your admission have been met, you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!


For further information about admission to the programme and specific questions about the different master’s specializations, please contact the coordinator of your specialization:

SpecializationContactE-mail
Geology and GeochemistryProf.dr. W. van Westrenenw.van.westrenen@vu.nl
Earth Surface Processes Climate and RecordsDr. Kay Beets c.j.beets@vu.nl
Global Environmental Change and Policydr. M.C. de Ruitergecp.ivm@vu.nl

International students

General admission requirements

Academic results
Bachelor degree at university level (preferably interdisciplinary) containing:
- at least 6 ec in Earth Sciences at level 300
- at least 6 ec in Environmental Sciences or Sustainability Sciences at level 100

Basic Knowledge or affinity with environmental topics:
- previous study programme, course work, thesis
- relevant work experience (can include volunteer work)

Motivation
The candidate has to submit a motivation letter and resume.
Unfortunately, for Dutch students, it is not possible to upload these documents in VUnet. Dutch students are requested to send these documents to toelating.beta@vu.nl.

These standards apply for Dutch and 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. 

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score.

Specific admission requirements for the MSc Earth Sciences programme:

For Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Bachelor’s degree students
Students with a Bachelor's degree in Earth Sciences from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam will receive direct admission to the Master's programme in Earth Sciences, specializations Geology and Geochemistry and Earth Surface Processes and Records. Students with a Bachelor's degree in Earth Sciences and Economics (‘Aarde en economie’) from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam will receive direct admission to the Master's programme in Earth Sciences, specializations Earth Sciences and Economics (no further requirements) and Earth Surface Processes and Records (when certain subjects form the minor Earth Surface have been chosen).Students with a BSc-degree Earth Sciences will be admitted to the following Master’s *specializations according to the Variant which was followed in the Bachelor’s programme:

  • Geology and Geochemistry: BSc variant I;
  • Earth Surface Processes Climate and Records: BSc variant I & II;
  • Earth Sciences and Economics: BSc variant I & II, with extra required subjects in Spatial Economics (contact the master coordinator);

*After finishing the first year of one of the 6 Earth Sciences specializations, you can choose the differentiation Science Communication.
*After finishing the first year of one of the 6 Earth Sciences specializations and provided you have taken Sociale geografie I and, preferably, 12 ECTS of "Oriëntatie-CE"- courses, you can choose the differentiation Science Education.    

Students who do not receive direct admission to a certain Master's specialization, because their BSc variant is not entirely appropriate for this specialization, may still be admitted by a decision to that effect taken by the Admission Board. The Admission Board will, in such cases, place additional requirements on the student before granting admission to the Master's programme.

For all other applicants
Students who hold a certificate of higher vocational education (hbo) or an equivalent of a Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam BSc degree obtained at an institution inside or outside of the Netherlands may be admitted to the Master's programme in Earth Sciences on the basis of a decision to that effect taken by the Admission Board. The Examination Board will determine whether the qualification in question is sufficiently relevant to warrant admission. The Admission Board may place additional requirements on the student before granting admission to the programme.

Contact
In case you wish to contact the Master's coordinator for information or advice you need to know that no rights can be derived from the reply given by the coordinator regarding your admission. Only with the “admission email” you will be officially notified about your conditional or unconditional admission.

Language Requirements
The proficiency requirement in English as the language of instruction can be met, if no longer than two years before the start of the programme the applicant has successfully completed one of the following examinations with the minimum scores indicated:

  • IELTS: 6.5
  • TOEFL paper based test: 580
  • TOEFL internet based test: 92
  • Cambridge Advanced English: A, B or C passed.

This does not hold for students who have a bachelor degree from a Dutch University or from a country where English is the native language.

Please refer to the Language Requirements webpage for the general requirements regarding language proficiency.

Copies of your English test results can be sent to the following addresses:

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 (only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Transcript (Provide a certified translation if it is not in English)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing)
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation

The above documents should provide a clear and comprehensive description of the following:

  • The statistical methods and analyses you are acquainted with;
  • The ecological, evolutionary and genetic concepts/theories you are acquainted with;
  • The textbooks that have been used for the above subjects;
  • Detailed information on your thesis, internships and working experience, if applicable;
  • The experience you have with lab work;
  • The address of the webpage where the Admission Board can find further information regarding the content and learning objectives of the courses in your Bachelor’s programme;
  • Your current position/profession.

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. Once 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 are admitted, 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. When all conditions of your admission have been met, you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

You can read more about practical matters and starting your studies in the Netherlands in our ‘Getting Started’ guide.

Further information is also available about:

There are several possibilities for obtaining funding. Among them are:

  • VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP)
  • Holland Scholarship Programme (HSP)
  • Orange Tulip Scholarship (OTS)
  • Fulbright scholarship
  • STUNED Scholarship Programme
  • Indonesia Endowment Fund of Education (LPDP)
  • Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP)
  • Direct Loan Programme 
Information about scholarships, fellowships and grants

For further information about admission to the programme and specific questions about the different master’s specializations, please contact the coordinator of your specialization:

SpecializationContactE-mail
Geology and GeochemistryProf.dr. W. van Westrenenw.van.westrenen@vu.nl
Earth Surface Processes Climate and RecordsDr. Kay Beets c.j.beets@vu.nl
Global Environmental Change and Policydr. M.C. de Ruitergecp.ivm@vu.nl

For questions regarding your application, registration or general inquiries, please contact the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences International Student Advisor:

Sandra van Daalen
T: +31 (0)20 59 87459
E: admissionsfels@vu.nl

General information about VU Amsterdam
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 59 85000 (Monday-Friday 10:00 to 12:00). You may also email us at study@vu.nl.

Contact our student ambassadors
If you are wondering what it is like to live and study in Amsterdam from a current student perspective, do not hesitate to contact our student ambassadors; they would love to share their experiences with you!

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