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Understanding politics in a complex world

Political Science

Democracy, Power and Inequality

Become an expert in the topic of your own choice

VU’s Political Science Master has a unique curriculum. You will become an expert in a topic of your own choice. After two months discussing the core debates in political science and how to apply them, you will opt for an elective to give you a feel for the topics you are interested in.

Perhaps you are interested in the global political struggle of transitioning to a green and sustainable society? If so, then Global Environmental Governance, Sustainability and Climate Change might be for you. If it is global power struggles that interest you, competition about who owns today’s technologies, security conflicts, or the role of intergovernmental organisations like the United Nations, you might be better opting for International Relations, Security and Global Order. The third alternative, Democracy, Power and Inequality, will suit you if you want to learn more about the impact of different governmental models, the rise of populism, or the state of democracy in the European Union. Your professors will inspire you and help you make an informed choice.

Whichever theme you choose, you will immerse yourself in methodologies and theories and learn how to apply them. You will follow a short course on the philosophy, design and practice of political research, giving you the theoretical tools and insights to prepare for your thesis work. Working in small groups you will choose and formulate your research question, review literature, design your research, and collect and analyse the data you need.

In the last period, you will work on your Master’s thesis, supervised by a lecturer from one of our international team of researchers. When you graduate, you will have gained not only a helicopter view of today’s complex political environment but also an understanding of the interconnectivity between the main players – from governments, banks and multinationals, to NGOs and social movements; you will also have acquired expertise in global politics, environmental governance, and political institutions. You will be able to conduct analyses, collect and process data as part of your own independent research, write essays, papers and blogs, understand policy documents and outcomes and argue effectively and persuasively.

Completing VU’s Master programme in Political Science you will be well-equipped to work in complex environments, where understanding the different interests behind societal problems is key, and with sharp research skills, a range of career paths will be open to you. You could become a politician, work for local government, a human rights organisation or a multinational company – perhaps in an advisory or policy-making role. You could go into journalism. Or stay in academia and take part in a reputable international PhD programme.

The start date of this programme is September 1st.

Which specialisation do you choose?

Find out what the different possibilities are within the master's programme

Summary

This specialisation unpacks the mechanisms and distribution of power. Are you interested in what causes persistent inequalities in the world? Do you want to understand the growing loss of confidence in the world’s leadership or the rise of populism? What issues affect the future of democracy or the EU? What are the different types of government?

This specialisation looks at institutions, power, democracy and representation. It provides tools to analyse the ways societies are organised politically and how this affects the provision of policies and the distribution of wealth and resources. This will bring you to an understanding of how these dynamics drive inequalities within and between societies, the unequal distribution of power and representation, the difference democracy may make, and how this impacts the way decisions are made and their impact on society. The specialisation gives particular attention to how national decisions have spill-over effects beyond national boundaries and may affect the international order as a whole.

You will refine your skills in methodological training, both qualitative and quantitative, and familiarise yourself with the state-of-the-art research in this field and learn about research traditions and approaches. In small groups you will work on case studies and you will learn how to apply research methods. Eventually you will formulate your own research questions and collect the right data to answer them. 

Conducting independent analysis and high-quality social scientific research will play a large role. You will write research papers, essays, literature reviews and blogs and practice the art of public speaking. There will be class discussion and presentations, and intensive coaching through tutorials and workshops. We encourage you to engage with players outside academia for research projects and our internationally acclaimed and well-connected lecturers are on hand to help with this.

In the last period, having formulated your research question and designed your research, you will work on your Master’s thesis, supervised by a lecturer from one of our research groups in Political Science.

When you graduate you will have a knowledge and skill-set that is in high demand for decision-making positions at a high level on both a national and international level.

Summary

If you’re interested in the global political struggle to create a sustainable relationship between people and our environment, perhaps the biggest challenge of our time, this track could be for you.

What, for example, are the political struggles that underpin the transition towards a fossil-free economy? How do we tackle global environmental problems with effective and legitimate governance? How can governments, cities, regions, companies and civil society join forces to create new solutions to complex problems? And what about addressing the needs of both industrialised and developing countries?

This specialisation focuses on global environmental governance; it marries international relations with environmental studies. You will unearth the complexity of global cooperation between politicians, policy-makers, multinationals, international organisations, civil society and scientists when it comes to governing the environment.

You will study environmental degradation from the perspective of politics and international relations and find out what the political aspects are of a range of environmental problems, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation and unstainable fisheries. You will develop your methodological skills and analytical toolbox, both qualitative and quantitative, and learn how to apply them to environmental challenges.

You will work in various settings, in both large and small groups, to apply these methods to case studies. You will formulate your own research questions and learn how to collect the right data to answer them. You will familiarise yourself with the state-of-the-art research in this field and learn about research traditions and approaches.

Conducting independent analysis and high-quality social scientific research will play a large role and you will write research papers, essays, literature reviews and blogs and practice the art of public speaking. There will be class discussion and presentations, and intensive coaching through tutorials and workshops. We encourage you to engage with players outside academia for research projects and our internationally acclaimed and well-connected lecturers are on hand to help with this.

In the last period, having formulated your research question and designed your research, you will work on your Master’s thesis, supervised by a lecturer from one of our research groups in Political Science or Global Environmental Governance.

When you graduate, you will have knowledge and skill-sets that are in high demand for decision-making positions in this highly popular field; locally, nationally and at an international level.

Summary

If you want to understand the complexities of global power, how conflicts are played out on the world stage, and how this impacts national politics and societies, this specialisation is for you.

Are you interested in conflicts in changing world order? Like the rivalry between the US and China? Do you want to understand how power is shifting from West to East? What are the drivers in newer conflicts, such as who owns our natural resources, or our technology? Are new forms of cooperation possible to tackle global problems such as growing inequality or a pandemic like the coronavirus? You will debate issues like this in different settings, from large groups to tutorials. You will also look at the effects of globalisation on the world economy, on international security, and on global cooperation. You will analyse how politicians and diplomats cooperate and negotiate with multinationals, NGOs, and intergovernmental organisations such as the World Bank or the World Health Organisation.

You will refine your skills in methodological training, both qualitative and quantitative, and learn how to apply them in these topics. Working in small groups you will apply these methods to case studies. You will formulate your own research questions and learn how to collect the right data to answer them. You will familiarise yourself with the state-of-the-art research in this field and learn about research traditions and approaches.

Conducting independent analysis and high-quality social scientific research will play a large role. You will write research papers, essays, literature reviews and blogs and practice the art of public speaking. There will be class discussion and presentations, and intensive coaching through tutorials and workshops. We encourage you to engage with players outside academia for research projects and our internationally acclaimed and well-connected lecturers are on hand to help with this.

In the last period, having formulated your research question and designed your research, you will work on your Master’s thesis, supervised by a lecturer from one of our research groups in Political Science.

When you graduate you will have a knowledge and skill-set that is in high demand for decision-making positions at a high level on both a national and international level.

  • Democracy, Power and Inequality

    Summary

    This specialisation unpacks the mechanisms and distribution of power. Are you interested in what causes persistent inequalities in the world? Do you want to understand the growing loss of confidence in the world’s leadership or the rise of populism? What issues affect the future of democracy or the EU? What are the different types of government?

    This specialisation looks at institutions, power, democracy and representation. It provides tools to analyse the ways societies are organised politically and how this affects the provision of policies and the distribution of wealth and resources. This will bring you to an understanding of how these dynamics drive inequalities within and between societies, the unequal distribution of power and representation, the difference democracy may make, and how this impacts the way decisions are made and their impact on society. The specialisation gives particular attention to how national decisions have spill-over effects beyond national boundaries and may affect the international order as a whole.

    You will refine your skills in methodological training, both qualitative and quantitative, and familiarise yourself with the state-of-the-art research in this field and learn about research traditions and approaches. In small groups you will work on case studies and you will learn how to apply research methods. Eventually you will formulate your own research questions and collect the right data to answer them. 

    Conducting independent analysis and high-quality social scientific research will play a large role. You will write research papers, essays, literature reviews and blogs and practice the art of public speaking. There will be class discussion and presentations, and intensive coaching through tutorials and workshops. We encourage you to engage with players outside academia for research projects and our internationally acclaimed and well-connected lecturers are on hand to help with this.

    In the last period, having formulated your research question and designed your research, you will work on your Master’s thesis, supervised by a lecturer from one of our research groups in Political Science.

    When you graduate you will have a knowledge and skill-set that is in high demand for decision-making positions at a high level on both a national and international level.

  • Global Environmental Governance, Sustainability and Climate Change

    Summary

    If you’re interested in the global political struggle to create a sustainable relationship between people and our environment, perhaps the biggest challenge of our time, this track could be for you.

    What, for example, are the political struggles that underpin the transition towards a fossil-free economy? How do we tackle global environmental problems with effective and legitimate governance? How can governments, cities, regions, companies and civil society join forces to create new solutions to complex problems? And what about addressing the needs of both industrialised and developing countries?

    This specialisation focuses on global environmental governance; it marries international relations with environmental studies. You will unearth the complexity of global cooperation between politicians, policy-makers, multinationals, international organisations, civil society and scientists when it comes to governing the environment.

    You will study environmental degradation from the perspective of politics and international relations and find out what the political aspects are of a range of environmental problems, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation and unstainable fisheries. You will develop your methodological skills and analytical toolbox, both qualitative and quantitative, and learn how to apply them to environmental challenges.

    You will work in various settings, in both large and small groups, to apply these methods to case studies. You will formulate your own research questions and learn how to collect the right data to answer them. You will familiarise yourself with the state-of-the-art research in this field and learn about research traditions and approaches.

    Conducting independent analysis and high-quality social scientific research will play a large role and you will write research papers, essays, literature reviews and blogs and practice the art of public speaking. There will be class discussion and presentations, and intensive coaching through tutorials and workshops. We encourage you to engage with players outside academia for research projects and our internationally acclaimed and well-connected lecturers are on hand to help with this.

    In the last period, having formulated your research question and designed your research, you will work on your Master’s thesis, supervised by a lecturer from one of our research groups in Political Science or Global Environmental Governance.

    When you graduate, you will have knowledge and skill-sets that are in high demand for decision-making positions in this highly popular field; locally, nationally and at an international level.

  • International Relations, Security and Global Order

    Summary

    If you want to understand the complexities of global power, how conflicts are played out on the world stage, and how this impacts national politics and societies, this specialisation is for you.

    Are you interested in conflicts in changing world order? Like the rivalry between the US and China? Do you want to understand how power is shifting from West to East? What are the drivers in newer conflicts, such as who owns our natural resources, or our technology? Are new forms of cooperation possible to tackle global problems such as growing inequality or a pandemic like the coronavirus? You will debate issues like this in different settings, from large groups to tutorials. You will also look at the effects of globalisation on the world economy, on international security, and on global cooperation. You will analyse how politicians and diplomats cooperate and negotiate with multinationals, NGOs, and intergovernmental organisations such as the World Bank or the World Health Organisation.

    You will refine your skills in methodological training, both qualitative and quantitative, and learn how to apply them in these topics. Working in small groups you will apply these methods to case studies. You will formulate your own research questions and learn how to collect the right data to answer them. You will familiarise yourself with the state-of-the-art research in this field and learn about research traditions and approaches.

    Conducting independent analysis and high-quality social scientific research will play a large role. You will write research papers, essays, literature reviews and blogs and practice the art of public speaking. There will be class discussion and presentations, and intensive coaching through tutorials and workshops. We encourage you to engage with players outside academia for research projects and our internationally acclaimed and well-connected lecturers are on hand to help with this.

    In the last period, having formulated your research question and designed your research, you will work on your Master’s thesis, supervised by a lecturer from one of our research groups in Political Science.

    When you graduate you will have a knowledge and skill-set that is in high demand for decision-making positions at a high level on both a national and international level.

The Master's programme

The one-year Master’s programme has six different periods: 

In Period 1, approximately two months, you will engage with the core debates in political science with fellow students. You will familiarise yourself with the key debates, theories, and big questions in the (sub)fields of Political Science and learn how to apply them to contemporary cases. 

Period 2 is when you select one of three different specialist subjects and discover the key elements of each, exploring them in different settings:
• Democracy, Power and Inequality
• Global Environmental Governance, Sustainability and Climate Change
• International Relations, Security and Global Order

In Period 3, you follow a short course on the philosophy, design and practice of political research, which will give you the (meta)theoretical tools and insights to prepare for your thesis work. 

Period 4 involves practicing how to conduct research within your specialization in the respective Workshop courses, as well as refreshing and advancing your knowledge on qualitative and quantitative methods in Political Science and learn how to apply them to your chosen topic. 

The last two periods are entirely devoted to working on your Master’s thesis, supervised by a lecturer from one of our research groups in Political Science or Democracy, Power and Inequality.

Double degree master European Governance track

A unique Master’s programme is offered by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Two leading universities that jointly offer a 2-years programme in Political Science. This programme will give you a profound academic grasp of European Governance and Social Policy. Topics include comparative politics of industrial societies, comparative social policy, democratization, the European Union and multilevel governance. At the end of this 2-year programme, you will receive an accredited and internationally recognized master’s degree in Political Science, Concentration: European Governance from UNC and in Political Science from VU Amsterdam, having a thesis supervisor at both institutions.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The European Governance Track is part of the Transatlantic Master’s programme (TAM) offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). Students begin the European Governance programme by studying for one full academic year at UNC-CH. You then go on to complete a second year of study and research at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam). All courses are offered in English. Coursework focuses on European Governance and Social Policy. In addition, there is an emphasis on qualitative and quantitative research methods.

While at UNC-CH in the fall semester, you will take three required courses and one elective. Next to that, you will also participate in the Speakers Series offered by the Center for European Studies. Courses will focus on topics such as comparative politics of industrial societies, comparative social policy, democratization, the European Union and multilevel governance. During the fall break, students will travel to Washington DC for site visits and an annual alumni/current student gathering. Three required courses and one elective will be offered in the spring semester. Some students may wish to pursue independent study projects with individual professors at this juncture.
UNC-CH’s academic year ends in early May. Students will be encouraged to pursue academically relevant summer internships in the US or overseas. Some internship guidance will be offered. More information about the programme

At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
After summer, coursework will resume overseas on the 1st of September at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. During this second semester overseas, your courses will focus further in a specialization, and you will do your thesis research and writing. There are 3 specializations within the Master’s programme of Polictical Science at VU Amsterdam that you can choose: Democracy, Power and Inequality, Global Environmental Governance, Sustainability and Climate Change, International Relations, Security and Global Order.

Rankings and reputation
The overall quality of Dutch higher education places it among the best in the world. According to the THE and the QS World University Rankings, no other country in the world can claim that 90% of its universities are ranked in the world’s top 100. Vrije Universiteit

Admissions and contact
You should submit your application to UNC-Chapel Hill. As you will do the first year of the double-degree master in Chapel Hill, they are in charge of the application and registration process.  For questions regarding the application procedures, we therefore recommend you to contact UNC-Chapel Hill.
If you have specific questions regarding the programme taught at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, or our services and procedures, you may contact us.

Contact
UNC-Chapel Hill:
Email: TAM@UNC.EDU
Phone: 001 919 962 4507

VU Amsterdam
Email: masters.fss@vu.nl

Application procedure
https://tam.unc.edu/apply/
Deadline: 15 December 2020

Corona

The corona pandemic makes this Master’s programme Political Science particularly relevant. This global crisis has highlighted the complexities of global connectivity in politics, economics and on a societal level. This programme helps you to understand this complexity and equips you with the capacity to formulate solutions to difficult challenges. Political scientists, especially with the specialism offered by the VU, will be well-placed to create solutions that make humanity more resilient to future crises.

Change your future with the Political Science programme

Change your future with the Political Science programme

A whole range of career paths is open to you when you graduate. Your analytical skills to think critically and grasp societal complexity, your capacity to conduct independent research and clearly communicate results to different audiences, and your deep knowledge and understanding of various fields in international politics, governance and decision-making are competencies that you can apply across diverse job activities. As a consultant or policy-officer for an international governmental organization for example or for a multinational or a bank such as ABN Amro, or for an NGO such as Greenpeace. Since you will be able to conduct your own research, engage with the outside world, collect and analyse data and will have sharp writing skills, you may choose – like some of our alumni do - to become a journalist, and academic or applied researcher, a diplomats or  even a politician. Whatever area you choose, your specialist subject will give you an extra edge. So where are some of our alumni working now?

  • Policy Advisor Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate Policy
  • Head EU/NATO Section Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
  • Senior Advisor International Clients ABN Amro
  • Secretary General Officer for the Council of the European Union 
  • Associate Professor in International Relations VU Amsterdam
  • Reporting Assistant Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Data analist at Booking.com
  • Foreign Correspondent for NOS, a Dutch public broadcasting organization
  • Chief Director of Nibud, National Institute for Family Finance Information
  • Analyst EU Advisory Mission Ukraine 
  • Member of Dutch Parliament for the Christen-Unie 
  • Policy Officer at Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
  • Sustainability advisor at Maandag 
  • Project leader China Knowledge network Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Tax Consultant Price Waterhouse Cooper
  • Researcher and Communications Officer at human rights organisation the Bulgaria Helsinki Committee
Explore your future prospects
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