Societal Resilience (Research)

Big data meets real-world challenges

Studying Societal Resilience?

How does society deal with complex global problems like aging and migration? How do communities bounce back after tragic events? What role do social media play in political polarisation? How can analysing data help us find solutions? What are the ethical concerns in mining data?

These are big questions that require big answers. The two-year Research Master’s programme in Societal Resilience identifies, investigates and develops solutions for broad social issues, using qualitative and quantitative methods to analyse big and small data. It’s a truly multi-disciplinary and multi-methodological approach to society’s most pressing challenges. And for that reason, it will appeal to students from a wide range of backgrounds. Getting this Master’s degree will set you up for any career that involves working in teams to analyse problems and offer solutions using data: whether that’s in academia, government policy, the non-profit sector, or the corporate world.

The Societal Resilience Master’s programme is deliberately broad: four key thematic topics (see below) are covered with a variety of data analysis methods, such as advanced data mining algorithms, scraping tools to collect data, qualitative and computational text analysis, and online network analysis. At the same time, you’ll develop communication, self-reflection and project management skills to be able to collaborate in multi-disciplinary teams, all of which will be highly valuable in the job market.

To break it down:

  • You’ll start by looking at the wider scope of societal problems, and the foundations society has built to be resilient to them.
  • You’ll then choose two of the four Institute of Societal Resilience themes:
    1. Diversity and inclusive communities;
    2. Dynamics of interconnectedness;
    3. Care and welfare;
    4. Governance reform.
  • At the same time, you’ll learn qualitative and quantitative methods of analysing both big and small data.
  • Towards the end of your first year, you’ll write a research proposal – good practice if you intend to apply for funding for a PhD programme in the future.
  • In the first half of your second year, you’ll take an internship – either at a company whose work interests you, or at an academic institution.
  • In the second half of your second year, you’ll write your Master’s thesis, which has the potential to be published.
  • Throughout the programme, you’ll be working in multi-disciplinary teams and learning from your peers. 

More information on this Master can be found in the programme overview and curriculum

Questions about the programme? Ask them via e-mail at

  • You’re on track to become the researcher of the future – someone who uses the latest in data techniques to solve tomorrow’s social challenges.
  • It’s a unique proposition: While other computational social science programmes focus more on data methodologies, Societal Resilience applies these methods to real-world problems.
  • Each thematic course is co-taught by social scientists from different backgrounds – for example, the diversity course is led by an anthropologist and a quantitative sociologist.
  • Amsterdam as a city – and the Netherlands as a country – is home to a host of international companies and research institutes. A great place to start for your internship – and your career.
  • VU Amsterdam has a reputation for research integrity, which means the programme also covers the ethical perspective on big data.
  • You’re open-minded when it comes to new technologies and methodologies that are outside your own discipline.
  • You care about social problems – whatever your opinion about the end result, you find the issues themselves intriguing.
  • You’re keen to work in a diverse team of people from different nationalities and disciplines.
  • You have either a background in social sciences or an affinity for data analysis.
  • Your Bachelor’s degree could be in social sciences, behavioural sciences, geography, operations research, psychology, economics, digital humanities, computational linguistics… It’s a broad list, so get in touch to check whether you fit the profile!

Does this sound like you? Then come along to our Master’s Evening or Master’s Day where you can find out more and try out the programme for yourself! If you’re keen to apply and meet the entry requirements (see below), then take a look at our application procedure and deadlines.

What can you do with Societal Resilience?
The skills training you’ll receive during the programme will foster your ability to work in multi-disciplinary teams on data-intensive research projects. You’ll learn how to communicate with colleagues who are specialists in particular topics, and how to ask the right questions when it comes to pulling data.

Where can you get started?
A Master’s degree in Societal Resilience will help you understand your options for what comes next – the programme offers guest lectures every two weeks by speakers from the corporate world, NGOs, government departments and more.

Can you go straight into the business world?
Yes. Many large corporations are collecting vast amounts of data, but their understanding of what to do with that data is limited. There’s a clear need for business analysts with experience in mining big data for a range of purposes.

Which further studies can you follow?
A Master’s programme in Societal Resilience is also a great entry point to a PhD. Your research proposal and Master’s thesis will be great preparation both for your PhD topic and when applying for funding.

Admissions and contact

The Board of Admissions is responsible for handling and assessing requests for admission to the Master’s  programmes of the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS).
Questions to or requests for the Board of Admissions of FSS can be handed in to the administrative secretary, who will submit your request to the members of the Board and will inform you of their decision.
The Board of Admissions strives to take on incoming requests within 4 weeks (20 working days) and 6 weeks  during the busy summer period (starting 1 June).

Admission with a Dutch degree

The Research Master in Societal Resilience is a selective programme. Selection is based on academic results, the relevance of your prior education, knowledge of (social science) research methodology, motivation, work experience and previous written academic work.

To gain admission to the Master's programme, you must hold a Bachelor’s degree in social or behavioural sciences, completed with a GPA of at least 7.5 (Dutch grading system) or the international equivalent. You can also apply with a degree in other fields such as mathematics, informatics, econometrics, operations research, computational linguistics, digital humanities, geography, or psychology, if you have a clear interest in social issues.

Registration procedure

  1. Registration for the Master’s programme in Studielink is open from 1 October until 31 May (non-VU-students) / 31 July (VU-students) at the latest.
  2. After registering in Studielink you’ll receive login data for VUnet.
  3. Add the following documents to your application in VUnet:
    • Resume
    • Letter of motivation
    • Scan of authenticated (provisional) grade list
    • Relevant course descriptions of your Bachelor's programme
    • Thesis
    • Literature list
  4. Finish you application in VUnet.
  5. After your application has been processed and assessed you will receive notice about your admissibility.
  6. Arrange payment of the tuition fee and complete your registration before 31 August at the latest.

More information about the registration procedure.

Please note: all students must meet the English Language Requirements before starting the Master’s programme.

Before the beginning of the programme you’ll receive practical information about starting your studies.

To be admitted to the Master’s programme all applicants must meet the following results in the English language test (no older than 2 years):

  • IELTS score with a minimum of 7.0
  • TOEFL score paper based test: 600
  • TOEFL score computer based test: 250
  • TOEFL score internet based test: 100
  • VU TOEFL-ITP: 600 (only valid for VU University Amsterdam)
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): A
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): A, B or C

Exemptions from the language test requirement are granted in the following cases:

  • Your bachelor’s or master’s diploma was obtained in an English-language university programme in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK or USA.
  • Your bachelor’s or master’s diploma was obtained in an English-taught programme at a Dutch university.
  • Your bachelor’s or master’s diploma was obtained in an English-taught programme in a different EU-country.

Do you have questions?

  • You can call us on +31 20 5985000 (on working days from 10.00 till 16.00).
  • Or email us at
  • Furthermore, you can send us a text message on Whatsapp on +316 107 87 317.

Open Day
Come join our Open Day on Saturday 9 March 2019, and see for yourself what it's like to study Societal Resilience at VU Amsterdam! Pre-register here.

On 30 January 2019, René Bekkers, Tijs van den Broek and Irena Paap hosted a live webinar on the Societal Resilience research master’s programme. Did you miss it? Don't worry, you can watch the recording here

Admission with an international degree

  • Bachelor’s degree in social or behavioural sciences, or another field (see list below) if you have a clear interest in social issues, completed with a GPA of at least 7.5 (Dutch grading system) or the international equivalent.
  • English level – IELTS: 7, TOEFL: 100; Cambridge: C1.
  • In your CV – please include names and contact information for two references. One of these may be non-academic. You do not need to send letters of recommendation.
  • In your motivation letter – extracurricular activities like volunteer work are an advantage.

Please check the full list of required documents for international degree holders.

Application procedure
Apply now!

Do you have questions? 

  • You can call us on +31 20 5985000 (on working days from 10.00 till 16.00). 
  • Or email us at
  • Furthermore, you can send us a text message on Whatsapp on +316 107 87 317.

For further questions about admission requirements, please contact the faculty international student advisor, Irena Paap (

On 30 January 2019, René Bekkers, Tijs van den Broek and Irena Paap hosted a live webinar on the Societal Resilience research master’s programme. Did you miss it? Don't worry, you can watch the recording here.

Contact a student ambassador
Curious about everyday life in Amsterdam, from our campus to the food, music and events going on thehout the city? Have a question for a current student? Want to know how much homework you will have each night, or how the Dutch educational system differs from your own? Ask one of our VU Ambassadors! They would love to answer your questions by sharing their personal experiences of living and studying at VU Amsterdam.

VU Ambassadors come from all parts of the world and from many of our master's programmes. Maybe there's one from your home country! See an overview of all VU Ambassadors.

Overview Societal Resilience (Research)




2 years



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


1 September




Behavioural and Social Sciences