Parallel and Distributed Computer Systems

The Andrew S. Tanenbaum Top Master's program in Computer Systems

Experimental computer science - New solutions for globally distributed systems

If you want to reach the top of the field of experimental computer science, PDCS is your program. Our Top Master's program in Parallel and Distributed Computer Systems was founded by prof. Andrew S. Tanenbaum and is designed to challenge students with the hardest problems in modern systems-oriented computer science. The program aims at highly talented students and is selective, focusing on excellence. After finishing this master, many students move on to pursue careers at leading companies like Google or Microsoft, PhD programs in top research schools, or join R&D labs in the industry.

Highlights

  • You will join one of the few Top master programs in the Netherlands. This Top master was started by Andy Tanenbaum. 
  • You will be trained by an award-winning group of systems researchers and be part of projects that are changing the world of computing. 
  • You will have access to an outstanding alumni network of many world-class researchers such as MIT Full Professor Frans Kaashoek, Cornell Full Professor Robbert van Renesse and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels.

How to apply

  1. Mind the next deadline: April 1 for international students with a non-EU/EEA degree, June 1 for holders of Dutch and EU/EEA degrees.
  2. The only official documents you will need to prepare are: (i) letter of motivation, stating why you would like to join our programme, (ii) your CV, preferably in the short, two-sided 1-page format preferred in the Netherlands, (iii) list of grades, issued by an accredited institution recognized by the VU, with explanations if you see them necessary, and (iv) attached, one or two of your highest-quality results, e.g., theses, articles, working documents.

Ambition

This master program addresses the most ambitious traditional and emerging topics in experimental computer science. Recently, computing architectures have evolved to meet the challenges of increasingly important areas (e.g. Internet of Things, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Security & Privacy, etc.). The Internet is now part of a fabric that interoperates large-scale datacenters, edge computers, and mobile devices and sensor networks, forming a complex ecosystem. This connected world has applications everywhere around us, from e-Science to online gaming, from online banking to facts-based governance, from smart cities to trusted environments. However, many hard and new grand challenges exist, related to scalability, performance, reliability, security, and privacy. These are key topics in our Master. 

You can count on the quality of this program. The Parallel and Distributed Computer Systems program has been awarded the label "Top Master" in the 'Keuzegids' of C.H.O.I. (Higher education information centre) across many years. This prestigious award is based on the ratings given by experts and by students about the quality of the program.

Label Top Master      Topopleiding 2018 Eng 



Label Top Master      Topopleiding 2018 Eng 

COMPUTER SYSTEMS RESEARCH

In this program, you will study the hardware and software architectures that can scale to up to geographically distributed systems, and that can serve up to billions of applications in parallel or up to millions of concurrent users. You will understand how to address their challenges of scalability, performance, reliability, security, and privacy. You will learn how to use experimental and empirical approaches, to correctly address the enormous complexity of real-world systems and their applications, and how they interact with real users. The curriculum features many lab courses, designed to teach methodologies to solve challenging use-cases and research problems.

Often, our students design, implement, and evaluate the properties of complex systems. To do this, students typically work in small teams in order toand learn collaborative research skills, which are the norm in the industry. Courses include Parallel Programming, Distributed Systems, Web Data Processing Systems, Advanced Operating Systems, and Computer and Network Security. Concretely, all our (research-oriented) courses revolve around the following research areas and topics.


High Performance Distributed Computing
Programming environments for clusters, clouds, heterogeneous systems, many-core, networked systems, sensor networks, smartphones, Internet-of-Things (IoT), applied to deep learning, astronomy, forensics, e-health, climate, multimedia, bioinformatics, smart cities, etc. For more information, see www.vuhpdc.net.

Massivizing Computer Systems
Making (distributed) computer systems scalable, reliable, performant, etc., yet forming efficient, engineered ecosystems available to massive numbers of end-users. This approach improves large-scale infrastructure, leverages modern hardware such as programmable accelerators and RDMA networking, utilizes emerging storage technology, touching datacenters, cloud computing, and big data. This affects numerous popular applications in the Digital Economy, such as e-Science, business-critical applications, online gaming, etc. For more information, see atlarge.science.

Systems for Artificial Intelligence
Systems to apply Artificial Intelligence algorithms on big-data environments like the Web. In particular, systems to apply deep learning and/or logical reasoning techniques on large volumes of unstructured data (natural language processing), or semi structured one (knowledge graphs/social networks). 

Systems and Network Security
System-level security and reliability, including topics such as software hardening, exploitation, binary and malware analysis, software testing, security metrics, side channels, hardware fault attacks, and reverse engineering. For more information, see vusec.net.

The Master's in Parallel and Distributed Computer Systems is a two-year programme that strikes an effective balance between classroom and applied work. About one third of the first three semesters is devoted to practical projects. All courses are taught in English.

The curriculum offers 120 ECTS. Students take compulsory subjects worth 42 ECTS, optional subjects worth 48 ECTS and a MSc thesis project worth 30. The emphasis shifts gradually from classroom lectures to independent and research-oriented study with practical work, seminars and the identification of open research questions. 

Compulsory subjects include:

  • Parallel Programming teaches you how to reduce execution time by writing programs that run in parallel on a large number of processors;
  • Distributed Systems teaches you about the software systems that, single or combined, enable distributed operation, from clusters up to global scalability.
  • Computer & Network Security is a wide-ranging course on security of computer systems and networks.

You will also have the opportunity to test your capabilities in at least one large project. The final semester is dedicated to the Master’s thesis, worth at least 30 ECs, which usually involves conducting research together with a member of the academic staff. 

For detailed information on courses and timetables, click on the following links:


 

Many options

PDCS is a research Master’s, which means that most of our students are preparing for a career in academic or industrial research, or for a top-quality job as lead designer or system architect. Many of our graduates continue their studies by obtaining a PhD research position at a top university. Others join industrial excellent research laboratories in the industry. The PDCS programme is also an excellent preparation for students who are considering a different career path. For example, some students may want to join high-tech companies where their specific skills are needed for the execution of innovative projects, or to lead the development of a challenging feature or system. Others will be snapped up by firms looking for the ideal combination of creative problem-solving abilities and technical skills. Some graduates have an entrepreneurial drive and start their own companies, leveraging the know-how and the alumni network. 

Our graduates are in high demand
High-quality PhD candidates are in very short supply at virtually all Computer Science departments in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Students who complete this Master's programme in PDCS are ideally suited to pursue a PhD in Computer Systems at many universities around the world. The industry is also chasing talent. Well-qualified graduates in this field are also in great demand for the industry.

  • PDCS emphasizes experimental computer science rather than theory
  • PDCS involves the design, implementation, testing, and analysis of complex systems
  • The curriculum includes many software lab courses, which are aimed at training you to carry out scientific experiments that solve challenging research problems  
  • For some projects, you will cooperate in small teams to train you in collaborative research 
  • The programme aims to prepare you specifically for research work at commercial or government laboratories, or for a PhD study at a university, or a technical leadership in the industry
  • PDCS is unique in the Netherlands and one of the few of its kind in the world. It is organized mainly by the Computer Systems Section at VU Amsterdam, which enjoys an outstanding international reputation in both research and education
CompSys, an outstanding section of VU Amsterdam

The Computer Systems Section (CompSys) and the PDCS program were set up by Professor Andrew S. Tanenbaum, a winner of the ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award, the ACM/SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computer Science Education and the IEEE award.
CompSys consists of three interconnected research groups and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in both research and education. Our staff are world-class scientists in mobile and sensor networks, in grid and cloud computing, in distributed systems and ecosystems, in operating systems and computer networks, and in the performance, security and reliability aspects of all these systems. The textbooks written bij CompSys members are used at universities all around the world.

Our award-winning research and education
For more information on our award-winning research groups, projects, and publications, and our award-winning education, go to the VU Computer Systems website

If you would like to know more

Overview Parallel & Distributed Computer Systems

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

Admission Requirements

FIELD OF INTEREST

Computer Science, Mathematics and Business

You can find more information on student placements and research projects at the Internship Office for Mathematics and Computer Science at the this page.

What is the application fee? 
See section Application fee procedure
                 
How does this Master's differ from regular standard Master's? 
First, this Master's is more specialized than the standard programme. It focuses entirely on computer systems. The standard Master’s includes other areas such as systems, AI, software engineering and theory. Second, this Master's selects only the best students, whereas the standard programme is required by law to accept everyone who meets the formal entrance requirements. We believe that this creates a better motivated student body, more interesting classes and greater intellectual stimulation. Third, this Master's is highly international. We expect to attract students from the world’s leading universities. 

What is the required TOEFL or IELTS score? 
For TOEFL we require a score of 580 or 237 on the computer-based test. For IELTS applicants need a score of 6.5.

What are the typical monthly expenses for board and lodging? 
You can expect to pay between 1,000 and 1,200 euros a month. 

Do I need my own computer? 
No. There are a large number of computers on the university premises reserved specifically for student use.

Dutch students

The PDCS programme is open to both Dutch and International Students and attracts excellent students from the field of Computer Science. 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 the PDCS Master’s programme, 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. Academic writing skill is to be demonstrated by submitting a thesis. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score. A Bachelor degree obtained at an applied university or higher vocational education (HBO in Dutch) in most cases does not grant direct access to the programme (only exceptionally high ranking students stand a chance of admission).

Specific requirements for the PDCS master’s programme
All students undergo a selection procedure to gain admission. Competition is tough as the programme is open to foreign students and is widely advertised abroad. You will be competing for a limited number of places with students from Europe, the US, India, China and elsewhere. Standards will be very high indeed. This is a specialized Master’s, consisting mainly of classes, practicals and projects in computer systems. A background in Computer Science and demonstrable knowledge of computer systems is required. Students preferring to take a wide-ranging Master’s are advised to opt for a standard programme such as Computer Science. In keeping with the programme’s international orientation, the application procedure is based on the system in such countries as the UK, the US and Canada. Students with a degree from a Dutch institution do not need to supply additional admission documents, since the level of education and status of Dutch universities is well known.

General language proficiency requirements 
VU Amsterdam requires international applicants and students with a HBO degree, to take an English test and to submit their score as a part of the application. Exceptions are made for students who have completed their education in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia or who have obtained an international Baccalaureate or European Baccalaureate diploma.

Admission to a Master’s programme: the Bachelor-before-Master rule
The Bachelor-before-Master rule is applied to all VU programmes. This means that you can only start a Master’s programme on 1 September if you have obtained your Bachelor’s degree. Uncompleted Bachelor’s subjects are not permitted if you want to start a Master programme.

What does this mean now for students?

You may have to adjust your study plan. For example, if you’re planning a semester abroad in the first semester and you would like to start the following Master’s programme in September, please note that every part of the Bachelor’s study programme has to be completed – not only the compulsory parts of the programme. Other (short) interruptions of your study programme can also have an effect on your ability to proceed onto a Master’s programme. If the Bachelor’s programme is not fully completed, you cannot start the Master’s programme until the start of the next academic year. Take this into account when planning your study path! Please contact our faculty’s study advisors when you have any questions.

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 the admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online
Dutch students or students with a Dutch University degree, please follow: Online application for students with a Dutch University degree. Students with an international degree, please follow: Online application for students with an International University degree.

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. The conditions include sending a certified copy of your diploma and submitting the results of your English language test. Also, arrange payment of the tuition fees or authorize VU to withdraw the fees (you need to have a European bank account for this option). When all conditions are met you will receive a confirmation of your registration and you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information about
Scholarships

Information about the programme

For further information you can contact the Director of Education:

Dr. Cristiano Giuffrida, c.giuffrida@vu.nl.

Practical information
Would you like to know more about our courses, scholarships and application & registration procedure? Please contact our International Office.

General information about VU Amsterdam
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 598 5000 (Monday – Friday, 10:00 to 12:00). You may also email us at contact@vu.nl.

Find out more about the Master's programmes and visit our information days.

International students

The PDCS programme is open to both Dutch and International Students and attracts excellent students from the field of Computer Science. 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 the PDCS Master’s programme, 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. Academic writing skill is to be demonstrated by submitting a thesis. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score. A Bachelor degree obtained at an applied university or higher vocational education (HBO in Dutch) in most cases does not grant direct access to the programme (only exceptionally high ranking students stand a chance of admission).

Specific requirements for the PDCS master’s programme
All students undergo a selection procedure to gain admission. Competition is tough as the programme is open to foreign students and is widely advertised abroad. You will be competing for a limited number of places with students from Europe, the US, India, China and elsewhere. Standards will be very high indeed. This is a specialized Master’s, consisting mainly of classes, practicals and projects in computer systems. A background in Computer Science and demonstrable knowledge of computer systems is required. Students preferring to take a wide-ranging Master’s are advised to opt for a standard programme such as Computer Science. In keeping with the programme’s international orientation, the application procedure is based on the system in such countries as the UK, the US and Canada. Students with a degree from a Dutch institution do not need to supply additional admission documents, since the level of education and status of Dutch universities is well known.

General language proficiency requirements 
VU Amsterdam requires international applicants to take an English test and to submit their score as a part of the application. Exceptions are made for students who have completed their education in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia or who have obtained an international Baccalaureate or European Baccalaureate diploma.

Admission to a Master’s programme: the Bachelor-before-Master rule
The Bachelor-before-Master rule is applied to all VU programmes. This means that you can only start a Master’s programme on 1 September if you have obtained your Bachelor’s degree. Uncompleted Bachelor’s subjects are not permitted if you want to start a Master programme.

What does this mean now for students? - You may have to adjust your study plan. For example, if you’re planning a semester abroad in the first semester and you would like to start the following Master’s programme in September, please note that every part of the Bachelor’s study programme has to be completed – not only the compulsory parts of the programme. Other (short) interruptions of your study programme can also have an effect on your ability to proceed onto a Master’s programme. If the Bachelor’s programme is not fully completed, you cannot start the Master’s programme until the start of the next academic year. Take this into account when planning your study path! Please contact our faculty’s study advisors when you have any questions.

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 the admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online
Dutch students or students with a Dutch University degree, please follow: Online application for students with a Dutch University degree. Students with an international degree, please follow: Online application for students with an International University degree.

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. The conditions include sending a certified copy of your diploma and submitting the results of your English language test. Also, arrange payment of the tuition fees or authorize VU to withdraw the fees (you need to have a European bank account for this option). When all conditions are met you will receive a confirmation of your registration and you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information about
Scholarships
Accommodation
Visa
Tuition fees
Scholarships

Contact for international degree students
For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office:

Central International Office  
Khadija al Mourabit, Marija Bosnic, Lotte Winter
T: +31 (0)20 59 83283
E: masters.fs@vu.nl

There are several possibilities for obtaining funding. VU Amsterdam, the Dutch governement and other organisations offer scholarships, fellowships and grants

We offer a special programme for outstanding students from our partner universities that consists of one academic year of study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. During this year, you should obtain a total of 60 ECTS, including 36 ECTS for the master project. Application for this programme is possible if you have finished courses at the master's level at your home university for at least 60 ECTS that entitles you to exemptions for master's courses at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

  • Students from our partner university University Politehnica of Bucharest are encouraged to opt for this program through their contact person: Prof. Valentin Cristea
  • Students from our partner university Amrita University (India) are encouraged to opt for this program through their contact person:  Dr. Maneesha V Ramesh (director, Amrita center for international programs)

How and when to apply?

  • Please note that you can only apply for the Short Track Master programme if you are a student from one of the above mentioned partner universities.
  • Contact your coordinator to discuss your study plans. You need a formal approval from your coordinator that you are selected for the Short track Master. Your coordinator will inform us if you have been selected;
  • Apply online as described here. Please note that you will not find the option 'Short track master' in Studielink, so just select the regular master 'Parallel and Distributed Computer Systems'.
  • You will have to upload a set of documents for your online application. In case of any questions about the requested documents, please contact admissionsfs@vu.nl. Please start your application, even if you cannot provide all documents.

Fellowships 
A limited number of fellowships is available for (partial) funding of this programme. More information on the VU Fellowship Programme.

Admission and scholarship assignment  
The Examination Board of the Faculty of Sciences will decide which applicants will be admitted to the Short Track Master's programme in Parallel and Distributed Computer Systems. Requests for courses exemptions will be evaluated as well. Application results will be given to students within 4 weeks after completing the online application.

More information? 
For practical matters, like accommodation, living costs, financial aid, work, etc., please contact our International Office.


Information about the programme
For further information you can contact the Director of Education:

Dr. Cristiano Giuffrida, c.giuffrida@vu.nl.

Practical information
Would you like to know more about our courses, scholarships and application & registration procedure? Please contact our International Office.

General information about VU Amsterdam
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 598 5000 (Monday – Friday, 9:00 to 12:00). You may also email us at contact@vu.nl.

Find out more about the Master's programmes and visit our information days.