Below you can find detailed information about the semester structure at VU Amsterdam, including the start and end dates of each semester and period as well as exam dates.
2021 - 2022 Academic Calendar
Fall 2021 Semester 6 September 2021 - 4 February 2022 Arrival and Introduction Period 21 August - 3 September 2021 Period 1 6 September - 22 October 2021, Exams: 25 - 29 October Period 2 1 November - 17 December 2021, Exams: 20 - 24 December Period 3 (Optional) 10 - 28 January 2022, Exams: 31 - 4 February Spring 2022 Semester 7 February - 1 July 2022 Arrival and Introduction Period 4 - 6 February 2022 Period 4 7 February - 25 March 2022, Exams: 28 March - 1 April Period 5 4 April - 27 May 2022, Exams: 30 May - 3 June Period 6 (Optional) 6 - 24 June 2022, Exams: 27 June - 1 July
2022 - 2023 Academic Calendar
Fall 2022 Semester 5 September 2022 - 3 February 2023 Practical Matters Day and Introduction Period 20 August - 30 August 2022 Period 1 5 September - 21 October 2022, Exams: 24 - 28 October Period 2 31 October - 16 December 2022, Exams: 19 - 23 December Period 3 (Optional) 9 - 27 January 2023, Exams: 30 - 3 February Spring 2023 Semester 6 February - 30 June 2023 Practical Matters Day and Introduction Period 3 - 5 February 2023 Period 4 6 February - 24 March 2023, Exams: 27 March - 31 March Period 5 3 April - 25 May 2023, Exams: 26 May - 2 June Period 6 (Optional) 5 - 23 June 2023, Exams: 26 June - 30 June
For more information, please consult the 2022-2023 academic calendar.
Semester Structure and Academic Credit System (ECTS)
The Period Structure
The academic year is divided into two semesters. Each semester is then divided into three periods.
Periods 1, 2, and 3 take place during the fall semester and periods 4, 5, and 6 take place during the spring semester. The first two periods of each semester are 8 weeks long (periods 1, 2, 4, and 5) and the last period is 4 weeks long (periods 3 and 6). Students generally take at least two courses in each of the first two periods. You are free to skip the last period and return home in December (Fall) or the end of May (Spring) if you prefer. A Minor Programme is worth 30 ECTS, but students can choose to skip the last course(s) in period 3.
As an alternative to taking a course in periods 3 or 6, you can choose to follow an extra course in another period. Students can take a maximum of 30 ECTS (usually 5 courses worth 6 ECTS each) per semester. It is up to you to decide how many courses to take in each period. We do not advise students to take more than 3 courses in any one period as the course load is much too intense.
ECTS Credit System and Study Hours
A regular semester workload consists of 24 - 30 ECTS. Each ECTS credit is equivalent to 28 study hours. Unlike many other academic systems, ECTS credits include hours spent in class as well as self-study hours spent independently working by yourself outside of the classroom. A course that is worth 6 ECTS credits would be equal to 168 study hours (including time spent both in and outside of class). Students are advised to take 24-30 ECTS per semester.
You can also find more information in the ECTS user’s guide (though this is quite a lengthy document).
Study hours at VU Amsterdam are a combination of hours spent in class with the instructor and hours spent out of class working independently. In general, a VU student has about 10 hours per week of strictly student/professor contact hours. The remaining hours are spent outside of the classroom and can include time spent working on assignments with other students from your course, known as “work groups,” or time spent working individually on assignments, known as “self-study.”
The Dutch understanding of “self-study” is a fixed number of hours spent working on specific assignments. Although the number of hours spent by each student may vary, all students are expected to complete a minimum number of hours of self-study for each course. This varies per course, but you should be prepared to spend more time studying independently than you may be used to. Self-study hours are weighted the same as in-class hours and are thus included in the 1 ECTS = 28 contact hours calculation.
Studying at VU Amsterdam: What is expected of you?
- Be an active learner and critical thinker: ask questions, participate, and share your opinion
- Be present and on time: many teachers have a 100% attendance policy; it's wise to check this with your professor beforehand
- Be prepared: fewer lectures, more self-study
- Be accountable: you are responsible for knowing when your assignments are due and when the exams take place
- Be transparent: always mention your source of information; plagiarism may result in automatic failure of the course
Studying at VU Amsterdam: What can you expect?
- High level of classroom interaction
- Independence and active learning
- Relative lack of competition
- Direct feedback
- Social equality
- No grade inflation or scaling
Questions? Please don't hesitate to contact us!
Semester in Amsterdam is a separate programme from the Exchange programme at VU Amsterdam. If you have been nominated by your home university for Exchange and your university is a partner of VU Amsterdam, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Are you currently a student of another Dutch university wishing to register for a minor? Please contact the student desk at email@example.com.