Master in Societal Resilience


Programme Description

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.

Study programme

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.

Why VU Amsterdam?

  • 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.

Career prospects

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.


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, previously written academic work and contact information of 2 references.

To gain admission to the Master's programme, you must hold a Bachelor’s degree from a research university 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 at the latest. Check your deadlines here.
2. After registering in Studielink you’ll receive login data for VUnet.
3. Add the following documents to your application in VUnet:

  • Résumé
  • Letter of motivation (extracurricular activities like volunteer work are an advantage)
  • Scan of authenticated (provisional) grade list
  • Relevant course descriptions of your Bachelor’s programme and the literature list
  • Thesis
  • Contact information of 2 references. One of these may be non-academic. You do not need to send letters of recommendation.

4. Finish your application in VUnet and arrange payment of the application fee.
5. After your application has been processed and assessed you’ll 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, deadlines and application fee.

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

Overview Societal Resilience (Research)

  • Language of instruction: English
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Application deadline: 1 June for Dutch and EU students. 1 April for non-EU students.
  • Start date: 1 September
  • Study type: Full-time
  • Field of interest: Behavioural and Social Sciences

Last updated Nov 2019

About the School

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to 23,00 ... Read More

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to 23,000 students from all over the world. Students and staff of 130 nationalities create a dynamic international academic community. The University distinguishes itself in research and education through four interdisciplinary themes: Human Health and Life Sciences, Science for Sustainability, Connected World and Governance for Society. Read Less