Master of Science in Biology: Human Ecology

Human Ecology

This two-year specialisation deals with the interactions between humans and their natural environment. The increasing impact of the human population on ecosystems worldwide stresses the urgent need for researchers with a multidisciplinary background that engage in developmental plans for a durable use and management of natural resources.

The graduation option Human ecology addresses an international audience of students and offers a course programme that, besides scientific topics, also addresses technological, socio- economical and political aspects. This programme provides the ideal basis for young scientists that would like to contribute to play a key role in dealing with human ecological challenges in their home countries.

Programme structure

Compulsory: 30 ECTS + 21 ECTS

Electives: 30 ECTS + 9 ECTS

Master's thesis: 30 ECTS


For an overview of all Master courses, click here.

Practice makes perfect

During your studies you will gain a lot of (international) practical experience, both in research labs and in the field. Ecological excursions in Belgium, abroad (Northern France and Southern Europe) and possibly even at sea help you to broaden your horizon.

You can do part of your study programme abroad through the well-known Erasmus programme, but there is also a whole range of other possibilities both inside and outside of Europe. You might choose to study a semester at another European university, or you can do your entire master's thesis or the fieldwork for your thesis abroad. Alternatively, you can also opt for an international internship.  

You can go on Erasmus exchange to:

For more information you can contact:

Exchange Coordinator Biology

Coordinator Internationalisation - Faculty of Sciences and Bioengineering Sciences


The programme is open to holders of a Bachelor degree in Biology or an academic Bachelor degree with a minor in Biology (e.g. BSc in Environmental Sciences, BSc in Biotechnology, ...). For other bachelors in science, applied science and life sciences, equivalency will be evaluated based on scientific competences and skills of the students by the Master of Biology Steering Committee.

Adequate knowledge of biology (ecology, biodiversity, physiology, genetics and molecular biology), mathematics and chemistry at university bachelor level is an absolute requirement. Previous knowledge of statistics, geo- or soil science, law and environmental management is an advantage but not a prerequisite.

Master of Biology - specialisation Human Ecology (reduced programme 60 ECTS)

Candidates with a Master degree of a five stage programme in Biology from an EEA (European Economic Area) university can apply for the reduced Master programme and can be exempted of 60 ECTS of the regular 120 ECTS programme. Applicants should have gained an equivalent of 60 or more relevant ECTS in their previous training. The relevance refers to statistical analyses, knowledge of various ecosystems, aspects of molecular biology and the conductance of a Master thesis. Applications are evaluated on an individual base.

Application procedure

Admission is based upon acceptance of the application (proof of meeting the academic and language requirements, satisfactory background,...). All necessary information regarding the admission requirements, deadlines and application forms can be found on the application page

Language requirements

To be admitted to the program, students need to be proficient in English.


CARIBU is an Erasmus Mundus Action 2 (EMA2) partnership program that aims at increasing academic mobility, research and capacity building opportunities between 8 EU universities (Belgium (2), Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Poland, Portugal, Romania) and countries from the ACP region (Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Gambia, Ghana, the Bahamas, Suriname, Timor-Leste, Samoa). The project is devoted to creating a mutual forum for scientific cooperation, learning enhancement and exchange of best practices. All partners in the project will strive to meet the needs of the involved countries including through the support to the development of disadvantaged regions, with a special attention given to equal opportunity and gender balance. To this end, an attractive scholarship program is offered for Msc, Phd and Staff.

More information:


Citizens of countries with bilateral agreements with Belgium can apply through the Belgian Embassy for a scholarship from the Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC). For details and procedures, please contact the Belgian diplomatic representation in your country or consult the BTC-website. Similarly, citizens of countries that have bilateral agreements with the Flemish community can apply for a scholarship. For details, please consult the website of the Flemish community.


The Terra Viva Grants Directory develops and manages information about grants for agriculture, energy, environment, and natural resources in the world's developing countries.




The Government of Flanders awards up to 45 scholarships to outstanding Master students. The program aims to promote the internationalization of the Flemish Higher Education.



OFID scholarships will be awarded to students or candidates for master’s degree studies. Applicants must be from a developing country (except OFID Member Countries), and he/she must first obtain admission to pursue a Master’s degree studies in a relevant field of development, from any recognized university/college in the world.



The Organization of American States (OAS) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), through the OAS Partnerships Program for Education and Training (PAEC), are offering scholarships to qualified candidates of the Americas to pursue graduate studies in the area of Biology.


As a Master in Biology, you will find work in many sectors. Most Biology masters play an active role in research, in universities as well as in the business world (medical and pharmaceutical industry, agro-industry). In addition to this, as a Master in Biology, you can also perform policy and governance work at the municipal, regional, federal or international levels.

Biologists also find their way into education (secondary, higher and university) and into the educational sector (nature and environment, among others). In each job, the knowledge and skills that you have acquired during your education at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel will be an important trump card.

Career guidance? VUB Career Center is your one-stop shop!

The VUB alumni are known to be critical, independent and open-minded people. Even then your first steps on the job market are not always easy. The VUB Career Center gives you that extra push you need to make it work. They offer individual advice on career opportunities and can help you to pimp your cv, or prepare for your first job interview. And you don't have to wait until after graduation. Pay them a first visit during your studies to find out what the job market has to offer you.

Student life

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a dynamic and modern university with three campuses in the Brussels-Capital region. The main campus in Etterbeek offers high-quality education and research in a green and stimulating environment. With all fields of study being represented there, you can go above and beyond your own discipline. At our student restaurant, you will easily find an engineering student standing next to a future philosopher trying to decide together between a pasta meal or the vegetarian selection of the day.
Our students do not feel like they are just a number in a long row of unknown students. They have good relationships with their lecturers and assistants who have an open-door policy where students with questions are always welcome. Small group workshops are also used to ensure close interaction and hands-on experience. Educational assessment conducted annually indicates that our students are “satisfied” to “very satisfied” with 90% of their courses.

Lecture halls and laboratories are furnished with the most up-to-date equipment. Modern sports facilities, including gymnasiums, fitness rooms, tennis and squash courts, and a swimming pool, can be found on campus.

For more information on student life in Brussels and at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, go to

City life

Brussels is the capital of Europe, but it wasn't always. Actually, Victor Hugo was amongst the first pro-Europeans who redeemed Brussels' geographical location ideal to be the capital of Europe.

You will encounter a strange mix of skyscrapers and small curving streets, of bourgeois and bohémien, of oui and non. It will get you lost, but it does so with everyone.

Brussels gives you what you expect from a real city: high buildings, busy traffic, an underground art scene, eccentric old ladies dressed in drag, bars on every corner, and a lot of love from the locals. Brussels is officially a bilingual city, which means that everywhere you go you'll see signs in French and in Dutch (and very often in English too). However, you'll find that most people in Brussels are native French speakers rather than Dutch speakers.

Here, in our belle Bruxelles you'll discover one of the greatest cities in Europe...

Brussels is a challenging city which you can explore endlessly, but you have to take some time to discover its true face. For a push in the right direction, take a look at the following pages:

After I finished my Bachelor in Biology in Peru, I have been working 4 years in the interface between policy-making and research. However, I decided to scale up my knowledge to be able to contribute better to society. When I came across the Master in Human Ecology, it was love at first sight as the programme combines basic science, applied science and policy. The international environment was fascinating to me. To have the possibility to learn from the experience of people from Madagascar, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Samoa, Denmark, etc. was truly amazing. I especially liked the courses about statistics, impact assessment, agroforestry, biotechnology and fisheries, and was impressed with the passionate and knowledgeable professors. I would strongly recommend this programme to all students who think science should be used to promote sustainable development. To those who believe understanding human society is crucial to maintain healthy environments where humans receive the benefits of nature, but also provide the conditions to maintain nature.
Claudia Parra Paitan, alumna

I studied Botany and Zoology at the University of Nairobi, and am now enrolled in the MSc Biology, profile Human Ecology at the VUB. My dream is to play an important role in plant ecology and conservation. Human beings are central to environment reconstruction and degradation and prudent management would avert possible ecological challenges and impacts. Studying Human Ecology at the VUB gives me the recognition and the knowledge and skills needed to help my people and my country. It has a holistic approach to science, combining theoretic, practical as well as field work. The dedicated professors coach us, inspire us, and challenge us to be innovative. I have also learned how to do oral exams. They are not common in Kenya, but teach you important social skills.

Chebii Willy Kibet

I am a forestry engineer from Cameroon and always dreamed of continuing my studies abroad. The Master in Biology, profile Human Ecology fits perfectly with my training and I really like the multidisciplinary approach. This master program is also an opportunity to improve my English, though I must confess that the oral exams are challenging for me. The practical orientation of the teaching and the perfect coordination of the program exceeded my expectations.

Natalie Kana