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Meet the global health challenge

Improving health and achieving equity in healthcare

The study, research and practice of global health is geared towards improving health and achieving equity in healthcare. If you are eager to look beyond national boundaries and disciplinary distinctions when it comes to health and healthcare, then our master’s programme in Global Health may be a good fit for you.

The research master’s in Global Health is a small-scale programme with a ‘hands-on’ approach. It brings together students and staff from all over the world with a wide variety of academic backgrounds. This diversity of perspectives enriches the discussions in your courses and your team projects. Through intensive individual and group research assignments and the two internships, you will have ample opportunity to discover where your passions lie within global health.

Large-scale, sustainable impact
Analysing health problems locally usually leads to small-scale changes that are not very sustainable. In this programme, you work to achieve a larger-scale and sustainable impact by taking a systems approach, by looking beyond the local level to the different ways of institutionalising and influencing policies. Understanding problems and developing solutions at this level requires interacting with a lot of actors during your research, including health professionals, patients, policymakers, and other public- and private-sector stakeholders. In this programme, you will learn how to identify the relevant stakeholders, how to interact with them, and how to co-create solutions. Global health research is far from sitting behind a desk and crunching numbers; it’s about working with a variety of others to solve health problems that affect the lives of many people around the world.

The start date of this programme is September 1st.

First year

In the first year of the programme, you will focus on the study of complex global health problems in high- and low-income countries. You will learn how to analyse problems, design intervention strategies and measure the effectiveness of such strategies using qualitative and quantitative research methods involving multiple stakeholders and perspectives. You will also learn how to study health problems and interventions in the broader context of governmental policy and national health systems and to compare these between countries.
The curriculum includes four core courses, an elective course and a mixed-methods research internship in the Netherlands or abroad. 

Compulsory courses

  • Global Health Interventions
  • Research Methods in Global Health
  • Academic Writing for Global Health
  • International Comparative Analyses of Health Care Systems
  • Research Project Global Health

You can find the complete course overview for this year in the study guide

Second year

In the second year, you will take two courses on advanced quantitative analysis methods and transdisciplinary research. You will then focus on your scientific writing skills and conduct a literature review. You will also learn to analyse ethical dilemmas in global health, and will be guided in writing a research grant proposal. The master’s programme is rounded off with the master’s thesis, in which you present the research findings from your second internship in a scientific article.

Compulsory courses

  • Addressing Disease Burden in a Global Context
  • Advanced Methodology ILA in Global Health
  • Ethics in Global Health
  • Governance for Global Health
  • Writing Research Grant Proposal
  • Global Health Master Thesis

You can find the complete course overview for this year in the study guide


The research master’s in Global Health allows you to conduct two internships of five months each. You have the freedom to choose your own research topics and to work anywhere around the world, as long as the research meets certain criteria. The partners in the programme also open up their research projects to students and advertise these placements in advance.

During the two internships you learn how to set-up, execute and analyse the results of your own research as well as how to present and discuss research data in a professional way with different audiences. Conducting two internships not only gives you the opportunity to explore different health problems and contexts, but it also allows you to put mixed methods and transdisciplinarity into practice, to gain insights into the possibilities for your career, and to begin to create your professional network.

Examples of past internships are:

  • integrated disease prevention, monitoring and treatment using the One Health approach in South Africa
  • health professionals’ accountability towards women who are receiving maternal healthcare in Malawi
  • stakeholder perspectives on efforts to effectively reduce antimalarial drug resistance, Medical Research Council in The Gambia
  • the evaluation and implementation of HIV/TB guidelines in Dutch HIV care centres, Amsterdam Institute of Global Health and Development (AIGHD)
  • mixed-methods study of nurses’ experiences with palliative care in mental health facilities, Department of Public and Occupational Health at the Vrije Universiteit Medical Center

(Research internship (year 1)
By conducting a mixed-methods research internship, you will put into practice the knowledge and skills you acquire in your courses. During this five-month internship, you will analyse a concrete problem according to a descriptive and analytical question. This can be done at a research institution almost anywhere in the world though one of the programme’s partner organisations.

(Master’s thesis (research internship year 2)
During your second year, you will combine your research internship with the writing of your master’s thesis. You will independently plan and carry out transdisciplinary research in global health. Furthermore, you will add social impact to your research by bringing together different stakeholders to discuss the implications of your research findings for global health policy and practice. You will write your master’s thesis based on your research findings in the form of a scientific article.

Athena Institute

The master's programme is coordinated by the Athena Institute, which is part of the VU Faculty of Science. Not only is the institute’s latest research integrated into the curriculum, but many students conduct individual research projects or their internships within the institute or with one of the institute’s partners around the world.

The Athena Institute’s research in the field of global health focuses on the following themes:

(Universal access to health)

  • design and implementation of interventions to improve access to healthcare (e.g. use of mobile phones by community health workers in resource-poor areas)
  • mechanisms to increase responsiveness of health services (e.g. establishment of social accountability mechanisms for maternal health services)
  • strategies to strengthen institutions (e.g. mainstreaming new working methods in mental healthcare)
  • system-level changes (e.g. introduction of community-based healthcare in India or evidence-informed policymaking on health programmes in Laos)

(Patient/client-centred healthcare)

  • the facilitation of interdisciplinary collaboration (e.g. between different maternal health professionals and patients)
  • meaningful patient/client participation in research, care and policy (e.g. engagement in designing and conducting clinical trials, development of patient-centred clinical guidelines and care pathways)
  • metrics for measuring the impact of patient participation, as well as mainstreaming of patient/client participation in organisations (e.g. funding agencies, universities, hospitals, psychiatric clinics, nursing homes and welfare organisations)

The programme is executed in collaboration with a network of Global Health Institutes throughout Amsterdam, including:

  • Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD)
  • Department of Global Health at the Academic Medical Centre (UMC)
  • Centre for Social Science and Global Health (SSGH) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA)

(Global partnerships)
The Athena Institute has a vast network of partnerships around the world. Students have worked with institute partners in low-, middle-, and high-income countries such as Denmark, Tanzania, Switzerland, the United States, Ethiopia, Brazil, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Laos and many more.

Recent global health developments

The increasing complexity of global health issues has resulted from the following four relatively recent developments:

  • Globalisation: Diseases ‘globalise’ through the increased mobility of people and goods at a rapid pace around the world.
  • Socio-economic developments: Socio-economic developments that arise at national level often (if not always) have an impact on the rest of the world and are important for many aspects of 'health'.
  • Rise of global governance: Increasingly, organisations like the United Nations (UN) set global targets that aim to highlight and tackle global problems to provide universal realisation of human rights across the globe.
  • Emerging infectious diseases: New and emerging infectious diseases (e.g. Zika, Ebola or zoonosis, such as COVID-19) require collaborative research and innovation from the world’s leading research institutes, as well as considerable financial investments.

This complexity demands innovative research strategies in order to improve health equity around the world.

Change your future with the Global Health Research Master's programme

Change your future with the Global Health Research Master's programme

With a master’s degree in Global Health, you will be prepared for high-level positions in global health settings all over the world.

Explore your future prospects
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