Heritage Studies

A spatial perspective on heritage

Master Heritage Studies: mission and aims

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities, is the only faculty in Europe that, departing from a spatial perspective, offers an interdisciplinary programme problematizing the tensions between maintenance, memory and renewal in the transformation of heritage. The interdisciplinary approach leads to new insights in the opportunities to give heritage a position in spatial planning processes that will determine the future appearance of European cities and regions.
Most people find heritage essential as a carrier of their environment and consider it an unmistakable part of culture. They see a connection between the visual and material features of objects, ensembles and structures, and the people as their creators and those who remember. This connection can be strengthened by the dissemination of knowledge, access to space and memory cultures, documenting, presenting. These actions can be worthwhile as such, but also in complex transformation processes, in which remembrance, business, governance and policy are at stake. It may even be that not all memories and remembrance events are welcome, but need to be integrated. The landscape of memory is freckled with obstacles and contested sites.
The spatial and memory approach is the general denominator of the international master Heritage Studies. Space is understood as a visually and socially localized entity and as such a deposit of old(er) historical layers and historical (sometimes painful) events. Memory is fused with sites or stored in institutions, nations, groups or individuals.

The staff of the master includes architectural historians, archaeologists, historians and historical geographers. Staff-members are connected to research within the interdisciplinary heritage Research Institute CLUE+, jointly founded by a number of faculties of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. CLUE+ initiates, develops and exchanges research into spatial transformations and memory processes.

Enroll directly at Studielink for this programme.

The master Heritage Studies offers a one year programme of 60 ECTS. Education consists of combinations of lectures and workshops, including much space for debates. A special addition are lectures on location with visits to projects, institutions, landscapes or cities. In view of heritage practice also lectures are given by experts from the working field. The examination forms are written and oral and individual commissions like presentations and essays are often part of exams. Students finish their master study with a thesis.

Four core modules are compulsory:

  • Historical Landscape and Archaeological Heritage
  • Architectural and Town Planning Heritage
  • The Biography of Landscape
  • Transformations: Meeting Designers

Several optional modules:

Politics of international heritage2
Terrorscapes in postwar Europe4
Archaeology, Museums and the Public (UvA/VU)1
Seminar Architecture1
Historische geografie (NL, at UU, level 200)5-6
Trending Topics in Media, Art and Culture (3 points)1-2
Amsterdam: Global Historical Perspectives (level 300)                                                                      
Archaeology and Heritage of Global Amsterdam   (UvA/VU)2
Wooncultuur (NL)5
Excursie buitenland Architectuurgeschiedenis (NL)6
Cultuurhistorie en planning (NL, at UU, level 300)1-2
Challenging Eternity: Heritage Excursion Rome (KNIR) 6
Architectuurtheorie/Architecturial theory

With permission from examination committee:

  • Internship (max 12 EC)
  • Individual reflection a & b 
  • Studying abroad
  • Other electives from other programmes, such as history, city planning, building archaeology or historical geography

Schematic outline of the programme

Heritage studies courses in the study guide

With your diploma in Heritage Studies you are an expert to negotiate with designers, planners, board members, politicians, entrepreneurs and other decision makers. National, provincial and municipal government bodies and stakeholders in the market need highly educated professionals who contribute heritage knowledge in societal issues, policy matters and design questions in the spatial arena.

There is also a need for experts who follow governance and policy in spatial planning with their critical intellectual observations and who can found or formulate alternative policies in a scientific manner, integrating heritage and memory in plans for the future spatial organisation of European countries. 

And of course heritage experts are wanted in the institutions for the protection and conservation of buildings and sites which is oriented towards valuation, selection and protection of heritage objects and complexes.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers the only Heritage Studies master programme that focuses on a spatial perspective in Europe. The university has a highly international character and outlook, making it the ideal place to study heritage in an international context. The Amsterdam Canal District is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town of Amsterdam is internationally renowned as a city of culture, art and tolerance. It offers a great context for studying spatial heritage in relationship to urban transformations and tourism. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is conveniently situated on a central location with easy access to public transport.

The master Heritage Studies offers an interesting and useful Master study for:

  • Students with a finished graduate (bachelor) education in:
    - Archaeology
    - Art History (with a specialisation in architectural history)
    - Ancient Studies (provided that 60 ECTS is spent on archaeology)
    - Human Geography (with knowledge of historical geography)
    - History (with some specialisation in environmental or city-country relations)

    • Students with a finished graduate (bachelor) education in one of the following design disciplines:
    - Planning
    - Architecture
    - Landscape Architecture
    - Town Planning (preferably with a focus on the history of the built environment or the history of the discipline)

    • Professionals working in:
    - the heritage and/or spatial sector
    - governmental (or governance related) research institutions in the domain of heritage, spatial planning and the environment
    - heritage or planning advisory offices
    - architecture, landscape architecture and town planning

Overview Heritage Studies




1 year, credits can be spread out over two years in individual cases


1 June for Dutch students. 1 June for EU students with an international degree who do not need housing services through VU. 1 April for EU and non-EU students, who wish to secure university housing services (strongly advised upon due to housing shortage in Amsterdam).


1 September




Art, Culture and History

Dutch students

Dutch students can apply via Studielink before the June 1st for the master programme Heritage Studies under the label Erfgoedstudies.

After you have applied for the master in Studielink, you will receive two emails with your login details for VUnet (VU studentportal). Please complete your application in VUnet . Don’t forget to fill in your specialization on VUnet : Heritage Studies.

Next to this, you'll need to provide all the documents containing the information we need to decide whether you are admissible. The following required documents should be send to: toelating.fgw@vu.nl

  • application form (Dutch)
  • transcript of records (scan of original)
  • motivation letter
  • curriculum vitae
Your application will be reviewed by the Admission Board of Faculty of Humanities. You will be informed whether you have been admitted via Studielink. 

Met een HBO-diploma kun je niet direct instromen in de master Erfgoedstudies. Je kunt wel tot de studie worden toegelaten nadat je de premaster Erfgoedstudies met succes hebt afgerond. Als je tot de premasterclass bent toegelaten met een HBO-diploma, dan is deelname aan een assessment verplicht. Kijk hier voor meer informatie over het premasterassessment.

In alle gevallen kan met het premasterprogramma, dat vastgesteld wordt door de examencommissie, uitsluitend in september gestart worden

Aanmelding en toelatingsprocedure
Je kunt je tot uiterlijk 1 juni aanmelden via Studielink voor de premaster Erfgoedstudies. Na aanmelding in Studielink ontvang je een e-mail met je inlogcodes voor VUnet (VU studentenportal). In VUnet rond je je aanmelding af en moet je de volgende documenten uploaden:

Zodra er een toelatingsverklaring afgegeven wordt, ontvang je hier bericht over van Studielink. Deze toelatingsverklaring wordt afgegeven door de Toelatingscommissie van de Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen.

A premaster programme for international students is in preparation. The text below is aimed at Dutch students. Please contact Dr. Freek Schmidt (f.h.schmidt@vu.nl) if you have any questions regarding premaster courses for international students.

If you need more information, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

For questions about the programme and our courses, please contact the coordinator of the programme:
Dr. L.R. Egberts
E l.r.egberts@vu.nl

Information days
Meet us in Amsterdam!


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.

Specific admission requirements for the Master’s programme Heritage Studies

The MA Heritage Studies is open to Students who have completed a Bachelor’s degree  in: Archaeology; Art History (with a specialization in Architectural History); Ancient Studies (provided that 60 ECTS is spent on Archaeology); Social Geography (with knowledge of Historical Geography); History (with some specialization in environmental or city-country relations); or Students who have completed a Bachelor’s degree in one of the following design disciplines: Planning; Architecture; Landscape Architecture; Town planning (preferably with a focus on the history of the built environment or the history of the discipline).

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 refer to the language requirement page for the general requirements regarding the English language test.

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 
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education 

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 about;
Tuition fees

As an international student planning to study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, you can apply for a variety of grants and bursaries. Detailed information about scholarships and deadlines can be found on www.vu.nl/scholarships or www.grantfinder.nl

If you need more information, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

For questions about the programme and our courses, please contact the coordinator of the programme:
Dr. L.R. Egberts
E l.r.egberts@vu.nl

For questions about application procedures, information on enrolling in our programme, admission requirements, accommodation in Amsterdam and other practical questions, please contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office:
Irena Paap
t +31 (20) 59 85252
E masters.hum@vu.nl

Information days:

Meet us 
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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: vu.nl/ambassadors.

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