Master of Science in Geography
UNRAVEL COMPLEX INTERACTIONS
BETWEEN MAN AND ENVIRONMENT
Geographers are in equal parts natural and social scientists and have specialised knowledge of techniques for analysing complex interactions between man and environment. They strongly contribute to the debate on environmental change, globalisation, and other major societal challenges and seek for solutions for a more sustainable development of our planet, at both local and global scales.
The Department of Geography of Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at K.U.Leuven (both top 100 QS ranking) have joined forces to offer a highly competitive, 2-year interuniversity Master's programme in Geography (120 ECTS).
The set-up of the programme, which includes a common core an three specialisations, either focusing on physical geography, social and urban geography, or GIS and spatial modelling, gives you the possibility to match it to your interests and ambitions. The programme offers comprehensive coverage of spatially explicit approaches for analysing social and natural phenomena and how these interact. Hands-on training in the use of qualitative and quantitative geographical research techniques prepares you perfectly for your future career.
VUB AND KULEUVEN: THE BEST OF BELGIUM!
The Geography Departments of both Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KULeuven continuously develop and maintain innovative and internationally recognised research programmes on fundamental and applied aspects of geosciences, covering a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Most research programmes are international collaborations, and both departments are participating in various international networks.
STUDENTS AS SCIENTISTS
The offered courses and specialisations are strongly embedded in the ongoing research programmes of both universities. Through intensive collaboration with team members of the different research groups, students get the opportunity to develop and improve their scientific skills.
Earth and Climate
The Earth and Climate track focuses on terrestrial ecosystems and environmental change, emphasising timely and relevant research topics in the geosciences like global warming, ice-climate interaction, soil and water conservation, natural hazards and risk assessment. In this specialisation you will gain a deep understanding of land surface and atmospheric processes shaping the physical environment, and acquire quantitative skills for analysing and modelling the dynamics of these processes. You will also learn to independently define and carry out research projects in geosciences and develop a synthetic vision on environmental issues, at local, regional and global scales.
City, Society and Space
In a strongly urbanised world there is a growing need to better understand social, economic, cultural, and political dynamics of urban areas. The City, Society and Space track focuses on the multifaceted issues that cities are experiencing in the current era of globalisation. During your study, you will be introduced to key urban social and economic theories and become familiar with critical views on urban development. In the interdisciplinary spirit of urban studies, you will have the chance to engage with and integrate insights from key debates in urban planning and design, housing and real estate markets, tourism and regional development, and many more. Moreover, you will be trained in qualitative and quantitative research methods that will allow you to analyse contemporary urban dynamics in a synthetic and rigorous way.
GIS and Spatial Modelling
In the GIS and Spatial Modelling track you will become acquainted with new approaches and techniques for acquiring, managing, analysing and mapping spatial data. Based on your skills in spatial data handling and your background in both natural and human sciences, you will be trained in analysing complex interactions between man and environment and in the application of spatial decision-making mechanisms. As an expert in geodata processing and spatial modelling you will get the opportunity to improve your knowledge in important application fields of geo-information science, including natural resource management, spatial planning, mobility and transportation. A big bonus is that you can also opt to include a 2-month GIS internship in your study programme.
Common basis (27 ECTS)
Specialisation (60 ECTS)
Master's thesis (30 ECTS)
Field trip abroad (3 ECTS)
For an overview of all Master courses, click here.
Click here to take a look at example timetables for all three specialisations.
THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER
As a Geography student you are privileged. Since the Earth is your study object, you need to go out there and discover the world so you can truly understand it. Field trips and excursions are a crucial element of your study programme, and allow you to look at the world from either a physical or societal perspective. Interesting areas for physical geography are visited, such as the Alps, the coast of Northern France, the French Massif Central (interesting because of volcanism), but also major cities such as Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and London. During these excursions you really get a sense of what it means to study at VUB: individual guidance, direct contact with professors and teaching staff. Excursions will not only prove to be unforgettable moments from your student years, but also excellent opportunities to put your theoretical knowledge into practice.
Do these international excursions give you an appetite for more? The departments at both universities have a whole host of research projects and collaborations from which you can benefit. That means you might spend a few months abroad for fieldwork in the framework of your Master's thesis (Equatorial Africa, Asia, South America, European Cities, etc.). You can also include a semester in another (European) country in your study programme or do an internship abroad.
Within Europe, the Department of Geography has Erasmus+ mobility agreements with the following universities:
- Austria Universität Wien
- Belgium Université Libre de Bruxelles
- France Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
- Germany HafenCity Universität Hamburg
- Netherlands Universiteit Utrecht
- Netherlands Universiteit van Amsterdam
- Spain Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
- Sweden Stockholm University
- Sweden University of Gothenburg
- Sweden Lund University
- Switzerland Université de Lausanne
However, multiple possibilities also exist for stays outside of Europe.
For more information you can contact:
Exchange Coordinator Geography
Coordinator Internationalisation - Faculty of Sciences and Bioengineering Sciences
The Master’s programme presupposes a broad basic knowledge of the natural and social sciences, as well as a broad introduction to geography. The starting conditions are expressed in the amount of ECTS the student should have already acquired in both natural and human science fields. Students should also provide a proof of sufficient knowledge of English.
Equivalency and admission to the programme will be based on a review of each student's academic record and will be evaluated case by case.
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.
To be admitted to the program, students need to be proficient in English.
Department of Geography
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussel
Programme director: Prof. David Bassens
[T] + 32 2 629 33 82
[F] + 32 2 629 33 78
YOUR JOB? SOLVING REAL-WORLD PROBLEMS!
Geographers integrate the study of physical and human systems. They are in equal parts natural and social scientists and have specialised knowledge in geographical information science techniques.
There is a growing interest for the multidisciplinary approach geographers can offer to solve real-world problems at all spatial scales - from local to global - and a strong demand for competent professionals in the broad field of geospatial sciences. As a graduate from the interuniversity programme Master of Geography, you may be recruited by public authorities, private companies and research institutions dealing with urban and regional planning, mobility and transportation, tourism, environmental conservation and management, natural risk assessment, as well as by a multitude of providers and users of geodata-based tools and services.
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.
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 https://student.vub.be/en
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:
I’ve lived in Britain most of the time and finished a bachelor on Environmental Sciences in England. But then I moved to Belgium because part of my family lives here. Brussels is a very international city and I’m getting a lot out of the master. I enjoy living here and never felt unwelcome. The Master of Science in Geography allows you, depending on your background, to tailor the courses to what you want to do. I must confess that it is harder than I expected. But I’ve accepted the challenge!
I am Portuguese and I studied Meteorology in my home country. After my bachelor I wanted to spread my wings and looked on the internet for something like a Master in Geography. Most of the English programmes are on very specific subjects. What attracted me in this master in Brussels was exactly its multidisciplinary approach. Besides your specialisation it also offers you a wide curriculum in physical and human geo-sciences. This means that you can really personalise and specialise your programme and still have a broad overview of everything Geography offers.
A well balanced mix of physical and social sciences and spatial modelling skills is what attracted me to study Geography, and this is exactly what I got at VUB. I chose to specialise in GIS and spatial modelling, yet my Master programme allowed me to explore other paths as well. My fields of interest were clearly reflected in the choice of my Master's thesis which focused on spatial analysis of rural poverty in SW-Ethiopia, and for which I received the opportunity to perform field work in this fascinating country.
I was offered the opportunity to start a PhD at VUB, combining hyperspectral remote sensing and urban modeling. In my research I am trying to better understand the interactions between the physical characteristics of the urban environment and changing global and climatic conditions. The ultimate aim of my work is to be able to assist urban planners in making proper decisions on the future development of urban areas. In my research I am strongly collaborating with people of different scientific backgrounds (bio-engineers, climatologists, hydrologists, urban planners). Working in an interdisciplinary environment has made my research so far a truly inspiring experience.
Frederik Priem, PhD student
Studying at VUB opened my mind and was my introduction to the fascinating world of physical geography. After an unforgettable excursion to the Alps I decided to focus on this region for my Master's thesis and during my last year I had the opportunity to participate in two field work campaigns on a glacier in Switzerland. The thrill and excitement of working on a glacier made me realise that this was the environment where I belonged and where I wanted to spend the coming years of my life.
After my Master in Geography, I therefore started a PhD focusing on glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets around the world. During my PhD I travelled to some of the most remote places on earth and had the unique opportunity to visit ice masses in the European Alps, Alaska, Russia, Spitsbergen and even Antarctica. Working and living for several weeks in the Belgian Princesse Elisabeth research station, the first 'zero-emission' station in Antarctica, was an absolute highlight. It has been a truly amazing adventure so far and I often realise that non of this would have been possible if I had not studied Geography at VUB. It was probably the best choice I made in my life, one I would recommend to anyone.
Harry Zekollari, PhD student
Why I decided to study Geography? It is an ideal combination of natural and social sciences, theory and practice. During my studies I discovered what social and urban geography entails, and it turned out it actually combined most of my interests: cities, people and urban renewal. My PhD research focused on 'urban development projects' in the Brussels Canal Zone. Within 10 years the population of Brussels will have grown with almost a fifth. That means there is a big need for housing, schools, childcare and public space. It is therefore a real challenge to find planning solutions that make optimal use of the space available, both in the short and the long term. In my research I looked at who is currently living in the Canal Zone, the problems and opportunities there are, and how space has been allocated.
The second part of my research critically looked into the way polititicians, urban designers, spatial planners, real estate investors and citizens arrive at a spatial plan, forming a vision for the future development of the city. In the beginning of my PhD research I spent a lot of time reading, talking to experts and digging into archives but in the second phase I ventured out every day to my 'lab' - the city itself. I visited all districts to get a feel for the place, to better understand the context and to learn from the people living and working in the Canal Zone.
Sofie Vermeulen, Doctor in Science, alumna Geography
When I meet former VUB students in my professional life, there is an instant click. We share a common mindset, a common view on society, a firm belief in the value and importance of free thinking and free inquiry. In today's world this particular mindset and spirit are of the utmost importance, because they form the basis of innovation.
Marc Schepers, CEO of CityDepot and VUB science fellows, Geography alumnus