Master of Science in Molecular Biology

In 2018-2019 two scientific programmes will join forces: The Master in Molecular Biology and The Master in Biomolecular Sciences will merge to a high-level scientific programme with strong multidisciplinary courses that combine a theoretical formation with research-oriented skills. Students can choose between the Profile Biotechnology for Global Health and the Profile Agro- and Plant Biotechnology.

Strategies to improve health and production

Molecular Biology is a rapidly developing discipline. It stands at the crossroads of chemical, biological, physical and computational sciences and focuses on the understanding of cellular processes, biological molecules and their interactions. Molecular Biology is a multidisciplinary area of study that deals with the structure and function of molecules as well as their interplay in creating the phenomenon of life. 

Research in molecular biology not only generates knowledge but also offers new opportunities for the development of diagnostic tools and new strategies for improving agricultural production, animal health, and human health.

The programme, commonly referred to as the Interuniversity Programme in Molecular Biology (IPMB), is jointly organised by KULeuven (,  Vrije Universiteit Brussel ( and Universiteit Antwerpen (

Although originally designed to meet the needs of students from developing countries, the programme offers an exquisite opportunity for those who seek re-orientation to enter the fascinating world of molecular biology.

Exchange students studying at one of the organising universities for one or two semesters are also most welcome to attend classes and acquire laboratory skills.

Students as scientists

The programme content has been developed by several outstanding and multidisciplinary scientific teams. The advanced courses and electives are taught by leading researchers with a proven scientific track record, thus contributing to the research-oriented nature of the programme.
The two-year Interuniversity Master in Molecular Biology requires full-time attendance and active participation in lectures and discovery-based laboratory work to develop the mentality that drives the progress of science.

During practical training, problem-solving formats are used in which students work together to make observations and to analyze experimental results. Students who learn via problem-solving formats demonstrate better problem-solving ability, conceptual understanding and success in subsequent courses than those who learn in traditional, passive ways.

The Interuniversity Programme in Molecular Biology is structured over two academic years.

In view of the diverse background of its students, a pre-test in week 1 of the 1st year is organised to test the student’s previous knowledge in mathematics, statistics, biochemistry, molecular biology and experimental research skills. Any deficiencies will result in a compulsory orientation towards certain electives.

By the end of the first year, students will have obtained the level of knowledge required to successfully take part in the advanced common core and specialised courses of the second year. Intensive training in the first year provides students with the laboratory skills to prepare a thesis in the second year.

Structure 2018-2019

  • First year: Total of 60 ECTS

Common core  (35 ECTS)
Profile-specific courses (9 ECTS)
Electives (16 ECTS)

  • Second year: Total of 60 ECTS

Common core (13 ECTS)
Electives (17 ECTS)
Master thesis (30 ECTS)

Research Management Skills

Our students learn to perform and manage research in a multidisciplinary and international context. We train them in various aspects of research communication and research management. This part of the programme includes a full course on Research Communication Skills (3 ECTS) and a full course on Project Writing and Management (5 ECTS).

Dissertation or Master’s Thesis (30 ECTS)

Under the direction and supervision of a promoter, students carry out an independent research project and prepare a dissertation: a written account of the research and its results. During the experimental part of the thesis, you learn to plan and perform experiments and critically interpret the results. You also learn to report both orally and in written, prepare presentations and summarize literature data. You learn to present your work in public and answer questions from a jury and the audience. Any topic is potentially acceptable as long as it offers a real contribution to Molecular Biology.
Priority is given to topics closely related to the student’s future work. Given the variety of possible research topics, the student is free to choose any lab, which does not necessarily have to belong to one of the three partner universities.

For an overview of all Master courses, click here.


Holders of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree awarded by a Flemish university in one of the following disciplines are eligible for direct admission to the programme: bioengineering sciences; biochemistry and biotechnology; biology; biomedical sciences. For other Flemish diplomas in a related discipline (e.g. chemistry; veterinary medicine; pharmaceutical sciences; medicine), admission decisions are based upon evaluation of a complete application file.

For holders of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree awarded by a non-Flemish university in one of the above disciplines, admission decisions are based upon evaluation of a complete application file.

Application deadline

Prospective students are advised to apply as soon as possible, even if they have not yet obtained their degree. Applications can only be submitted through our website

  • Students who require a visa (non-EU/EEA nationals) need to submit their application before June 1st (€100). Free of charge before April 1st.
  • Students who do not require a visa must apply before June 1st, free of charge.
  • Note: if the proof of English proficiency or APS certificate is not ready before the deadline, you can always submit it later instead of missing the deadline

Tuition fees

All Flemish universities in Belgium are subsidised by the government, which results in relatively low tuition fees. The general tuition fee for our master programmes is €890/year. Some programmes have higher tuition fee for students with a non EU/EEA nationality. A detailed overview of the tuition fees can be found on:

Scholarship information

You can check the list of all scholarship programmes in which VUB is involved.

If you want to apply directly - not through a scholarship programme - please follow the application procedure below.

Language requirements

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

After graduation, you will be able to contribute to the improvement of human health or plant production through a molecular biological approach. You will know how to appraise the scientific and social aspects of applied molecular biology.
We train our students so they can cope with a wide range of scientific problems as well as the development of preventive strategies, diagnostic techniques and therapies while being aware of the ethical issues related to this field.
A critical mind will allow you to consider and reflect on existing and new theories within the study field and will help you to solve global problems or issues that both developing and developed countries are facing.


Scientific research in the Brussels-Capital Region is mainly geared towards highly specialised sectors and advanced technologies. Molecular Biology is a rapidly developing discipline in modern life science, and companies need ambitious scientists who understand cellular processes, biological molecules and their interactions.
The problem-solving formats in the programme and courses such as Research Communication Skills are intended to help you to continue your career in research.
Graduates find employment in universities, hospitals, private and governmental research laboratories and patenting bureaus. They can work in the R&D department of a pharmaceutical, food or biotech company, work on environmental protection, develop state-of-the-art equipment in biotechnology, be part of a sales and marketing department or work as lecturers, consultants and advisors to policy makers. Many graduates start a PhD programme in Belgium or abroad.

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.

VUB professors received Certificates of Recognition from the Can Tho University (Vietnam) after 20 years of collaboration and attended an alumni meeting of the Molecular Biology programme.

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:

Brussels & me: information centres and useful websites
Things to do, as suggested by your fellow students
This is Belgium: helpful facts, opening hours and public transport

“Thanks to a scholarship, I had a great opportunity to pursue my dream to obtain a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology. Diversified subjects gave me a broad and deep knowledge in the field of molecular biology, especially on plant production, an important area for the agricultural development of Vietnam. That is also the reason why I decided to perform research on plant genetics and molecular biology in my master dissertation. My dissertation gave me an insight in the role of plant dehydrins, a group of plant proteins responding to the abiotic stresses, as well as in the possibility to use these proteins for plant improvement, especially for economically important crops such as rice, maize and wheat. That tough time not only improved my research skills and, but also made me more confident. Now I have four more years to work on my PhD and continue investigating dehydrins. They are great candidates to be transferred to maize with the purpose to increase the stress tolerance and nutritional quality of this important crop.”
Nguyen Nhu Phuong, PhD student

”I’m from Canada, and having completed my bachelor degree there, I sought international opportunities to broaden both my scientific and cultural views. Combining people of several different cultures to explore several different facets of science not only aroused my curiosity but allowed me to develop valuable skills such as perseverance and new techniques, and to refine my interests. Armed with these assets, on completion of the program I immediately transitioned into life as a PhD candidate. I’ve spent the last several years investigating various inflammation-associated pathologies in an attempt to develop more effective diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. This is just the beginning of a world of possibilities!”
Amanda Sparkes, PhD student


”The need to combat the prevailing diseases such as cholera, ebola, polio and African trypanosomosis were the key driving forces that compelled me to pursue further training. Through a VLIR-UOS scholarship, I arrived at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel where I was trained on a number of important molecular techniques and basic research concepts. I was granted a VUB scholarship to continue with a PhD programme. Looking back to where it all started, I can confidently say that the knowledge I gained is enormous. I have contributed to supervision of students, co-authored a book and participated in a number of technology transfer seminars.
Thus, with all this experience I’m in a better position to resume my teaching position in Makerere University (Uganda) and I look forward to starting a research group on development of affordable immunodiagnostics tests for tropical parasitic diseases.”

Steven Odongo, PhD student


“During the practical training I discovered a very attractive specificity: the field of cancer immunology. I did my master dissertation on this research topic. It was a difficult year. However, carrying out research gave me so much knowledge and experience that I just kept trying until I had interesting results. After finishing the programme, my only wish was to become a PhD student on the topic of macrophages, the top regulators of immune responses that induce cancer growth and metastasis. The depletion of these protumoral macrophages could be a novel cancer therapy. What I learned is that if you really want something, you should work for it. Nothing is impossible; all you need is perseverance and a bit of luck.”
Evangelia Bolli, PhD student