Semester in Amsterdam students can choose to follow a minor programme or create their own schedule of individual courses from the lists in the Exchange Study Guide. You are also invited to take an elective Dutch language or history course. Academically motivated students are encouraged to apply to honours courses as well.
Course Options for Semester in Amsterdam Students
Minor Programmes: General Information
Minor programmes are a set combination of Advanced Bachelor-level courses in a specific field. Minor programmes usually consist of 5 - 6 courses worth a total of 30 ECTS and are only offered during the fall semester. If you wish to return home before Christmas, then you are free to skip the last course(s) in period 3.
All other courses in the minor are required. Sometimes courses offered as part of a minor are also available to be taken as individual courses. If this is the case, the course will also be listed in the online Exchange Study Guide as an individual course.
There are certain advantages to choosing a minor:
- Students gain specialized knowledge in a chosen field of study
- Students can immediately finalize their study plan because courses within a minor do not overlap
- Minors demonstrate a study specialization which can be listed on a CV
- Students will follow all courses with the same group of students
Are you a student of another Dutch university wishing to take a minor programme? In this case, please follow the steps listed for non-VU students. Current students of other Dutch universities follow different application procedures and are not Semester in Amsterdam students.
Fall 2023 University Minors (Open to most 3rd-year Bachelor's and Master's Students)
You can find a full list of university minor programmes available to Semester in Amsterdam students below. You can find course descriptions with course codes for each of the courses in the minor programmes in the updated study guide via the link for Individual Courses. Only minors in the list below are available to Semester in Amsterdam students.
- Brain and Mind
- Bible Translation in the Digital Age
- Buddhism, Yoga, and Spirituality
- Business Administration
- Development and Global Challenges
- Digital Humanities and Social Analytics
- European Urban and Cultural History
- Foreign Language Learning
- Gender and Diversity
- Global Health
- Law and Global Society
- Managing Digital Innovation
- Peace and Conflict Studies
- Peace Theology and Anabaptist-Mennonite Traditions
- Political Science
- Psychology and the Brain
- Religious Dimensions of Global Challenges
- Risk Management for Financial Institutions
- Sustainability: Global Challenges, Interdisciplinary Solutions
- Technology, Law & Ethics
Fall 2023 Faculty Minors
You can find course descriptions with course codes for each of the courses in the minor programmes in the updated study guide via the link for Individual Courses. Only minors in the list below are available to Semester in Amsterdam students.
Note that these minor programmes have specific entry requirements
Minors Behavioural and Human Movement Sciences
Minors Economics and Business Administration
- Applied Econometrics: A Big Data Experience for All
- Decision Making in Business and Society
- E-business and Online Commerce
- Health Care Management
- Sustainability: Management and Innovation
Minors Earth and Life Sciences
- Biomolecular Sciences
- Earth Surface - Track Earth Sciences
- Earth Surface - Track Earth, Economics & Sustainability
- Evolutionary Biology and Ecology
- Geology and Geochemistry
Minors Social Sciences
Minor Programmes Faculty of Medicine VU
Semester in Amsterdam students who wish to apply need to have completed at least 90 ECTS in a relevant programme such as: medicine, biomedicine, psychobiology, technical medicine, medical biology, liberal arts & sciences or biopharmaceutical sciences. Please keep in mind that some tracks are only open to medical students. Acceptance also depends on the availability of sufficient spots.
Create Your Own Schedule of Individual Courses
If you prefer not to take a minor programme or will study abroad during the Spring semester (minors are only offered in the Fall), you can create your own course schedule from the courses listed in the Exchange Study Guide. We offer 1100+ courses in English.
Make sure to refer to the section Selecting Individual Courses in the drop-down menu below before you choose courses and only choose courses from the "Exchange Programme Courses". Courses offered through the regular degree programmes are not available to Semester in Amsterdam students.
Note: Semester in Amsterdam students are not the same as Exchange students, but you choose from the same course guide. Semester in Amsterdam students follow a different course registration and application procedure.
Dutch Language and Culture Courses
Semester in Amsterdam offers a special Dutch language course called Discover Dutch for students who wish to acquire basic Dutch language skills (A1 level). This is a special course organized by the VU language department, NT2.
Please keep in mind that, since this is a special course organized by our language department, it will not appear in your personal timetable at rooster.vu.nl like your other courses. Students will receive a separate timetable directly from the professor and a transcript (worth 6 ECTS) upon completion. Discover Dutch is usually scheduled in the evening so that it will not overlap with your other courses. Please also note that this course spans two periods; it is not possible to choose just one period or the other.
Please confirm with your home university or provider if you are required to take a Dutch course. You can also take Discover Dutch as an elective.
Discover Dutch Cancellation Deadline and Waitlist
Please note that this course has a maximum limit of 40 participants. Spots are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If more than 40 students sign up, additional students will be notified and put on the waitlist. Since this course has a limited capacity, in order to accommodate as many students as possible, the cancellation deadline for this course occurs earlier than other courses.
Students who wish to drop Discover Dutch must let us know by 15 August for the Fall semester and 15 January for the Spring semester.
Here you can find a previous syllabus and timetable for Discover Dutch. You will receive an updated syllabus directly from the professor before the start of the course.
Imagining the Dutch: Themes in Dutch History
The course Imagining the Dutch will familiarize students with core aspects of Dutch history and the way the Netherlands is imagined. Students will learn how to connect Dutch history with a number of present-day public debates on issues such as national identity, tolerance, environment, colonialism, World War II, democracy, and multiculturalism. There is no language component for Imagining the Dutch. You can find more information in the course description in the Exchange Study Guide.
This course is offered twice a year, once during the Fall semester and once during the Spring semester. In the Fall semester, Imagining the Dutch takes place during Period 1. In the Spring semester, this course spans two periods, periods 4 and 5. This means that during the Spring semester, this course is spread out over a longer period of time, but you will meet fewer times per week. It is not possible to choose just one period or the other.
Qualified students can take honours courses. Honours courses are interdisciplinary, small seminar-style courses that emphasize student discussion. They are offered in the evening hours and generally do not overlap with your other courses (though they may overlap with the elective Dutch courses that are also offered in the evening hours).
Students need a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale (comparable to 8.0 on a European ECTS scale) to qualify. Students who do not meet this minimum grade point average may be considered in special circumstances.
Please note that honours programme students are given priority in these courses, so placement can unfortunately not be guaranteed.
- Fall Semester: 1 July
- Spring Semester: 1 January
**Please note that not all courses are open to be taken by Semester in Amsterdam students. We will publish the updated list of honours courses available to Semester in Amsterdam students by 10 June (Fall semester) and 10 December (Spring semester). Since not all courses are available, and not all courses require a motivation letter, we recommend waiting until the final list is published to apply for honours courses.
Semester in Amsterdam students are only eligible to take honours courses offered at VU Amsterdam. Courses offered through the University of Amsterdam or Amsterdam University College are NOT available to be taken through the Semester in Amsterdam programme.
How to Apply:
All applications for honours courses via the Semester in Amsterdam Programme should be sent directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Motivation letters should be approximately 500 - 1000 words and describe your main motivation for choosing each specific course. If you are interested in more than one course, you must submit a motivation letter for each course. **If you submit one letter for multiple courses, your application will not be considered.
VU Amsterdam Summer School
Want to extend your Semester in Amsterdam? Take a course (or two!) via the VU Amsterdam Summer School!
The summer school offers two blocks of 2-week long courses. Courses are multidisciplinary and feature practical assessments such as in-house company boot camps, mock “shark tanks,” and data analysis systems. The level ranges from Advanced Bachelor's to Master's and PhD. All Summer School courses include built-in excursions to museums and institutes such as the Anne Frank House and the International Criminal Court. A complete social programme full of unique social activities is also available.
Semester in Amsterdam students qualify for a €450 discount off of all Summer School courses!
Course Approval and Registration Process
Course Approval and Registration Process and Periods
- The course registration process consists of two parts: course approval and course registration.
- As a Semester in Amsterdam you do not have access to the course registration page in your VU Dashboard. Instead the Semester in Amsterdam staff will register you for courses as soon as the academic timetable is posted online and you have submitted your final course registration form.
- We will request a total of two course forms from students, one course approval form and one final course registration form. Both students who intend on following a minor and students who will create their own schedule of individual courses are required to complete this process. You are required to submit both forms and also check for overlaps in the academic timetable before you will be registered for courses. We will send you detailed information about this process by email after the final programme cancellation deadline has passed. If you are participating through a study abroad organization, they may complete this process for you.
- We will ask you to submit your course approval form in June (Fall semester) or November/December (Spring semester) in order to check that you meet the background requirements for your chosen courses. If you don't meet the requirements, we will work with you to choose new courses. The approved courses are considered provisional until you have completed the course registration process. This happens once the course schedules are published in July (Fall semester) or December (Spring semester).
- Once you have been enrolled in courses, you will be able to view these courses in your personal timetable at rooster.vu.nl.
Course Approval Period
- Fall Semester: Beginning of June
- Spring Semester: End of November/Beginning of December
Course Registration Period
- Fall 2023 Semester: Monday, 17 July - Monday, 11 December 2023 at 23:59 CET
- Spring 2024 Semester: Monday, 11 December, 2023 - Monday, 6 May 2024 at 23:59 CET
Selecting Individual Courses
If you will create your own schedule of courses, please carefully read the following information and make sure to choose from the right course lists.
You can choose from 1,100+ English-taught bachelor's and master's level courses.
When choosing courses, you should only choose courses listed under the Exchange programme in the study guide. Not all courses listed in degree programmes are available to be taken as a Semester in Amsterdam student. All courses listed in the Exchange Study Guide are taught in English, but you can always check the language via the details in the course description.
Please note the following:
- Although Semester in Amsterdam students choose from the same course list as exchange students, Semester in Amsterdam students follow a different course registration procedure than exchange students.
- Course lists for the new academic year are posted in April/May and the timetables are published a few months before the start of each semester.
- Until the academic timetable is published, your choices are considered provisional and subject to change. For this reason, we suggest having backup course selections ready.
Check the Entry Requirements
Please pay special attention to any recommended or required background knowledge listed in the course descriptions. While some courses are open to be taken as elective courses by students with different kinds of academic backgrounds, other courses require you to have background knowledge in a specific field. We will check that you meet the requirements before we enroll you in courses.
Faculty of Behaviour and Movement Science
Psychology courses available to Semester in Amsterdam students are offered by the Faculty of Behavioral and Movement Sciences at VU Amsterdam and the focus is on Biological Psychology; Clinical, Neuro- and Developmental Psychology; Experimental and Applied Psychology. Students must have completed the equivalent of at least 30 ECTS of psychology courses to be eligible to participate in courses offered by the faculty of Behavior and Movement Sciences. If you do not have a background in psychology, you are not eligible to take these courses.
Faculty of Business and Economics
Students who wish to take Business and Economics courses should pay special attention to the listed background requirements. For these courses, the recommended background knowledge is usually required.
In general, you should choose courses which match your level. Bachelor-level (undergraduate) courses at VU Amsterdam range from level 100 to 300. 100 level courses are first-year/introductory-level courses, 200 are second-year, and 300 are third-year/advanced-level courses. If you wish to take a 200-level course, then you should at least be in your second year of bachelor's study. If you wish to take a 300-level course, then you should at least be in your third year of bachelor's study.
Bachelor’s students are not allowed to follow master’s courses unless these courses are also listed in the Exchange Study Guide under Bachelor’s courses.
Master’s courses range from level 400 to 600. In addition to course-specific entry requirements, students interested in following master-level courses must also meet the admission requirements for the graduate degree programme to which the course belongs. This includes submitting a copy of your bachelor's diploma and proof of an English proficiency test (for non-native speakers).
Choose Courses From the Right Period
At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the academic year is divided into two semesters. Each semester is then divided into three periods. The first semester (Fall) consists of periods 1, 2, and 3 and takes place from the beginning of September to the end of January. The second semester (Spring) consists of periods 4, 5, and 6 and takes place from the beginning of February to the end of June.
Due to the semester/period structure, courses may be shorter and more intense than you are used to. Rather than taking a few courses that last the entire semester, you will take 4 - 5 courses that each last 4 - 8 weeks. This means you have quite a bit of flexibility in how you plan your schedule. You are free to skip the last period (P3/P6) and return home in December (Fall) or the end of May (Spring) if you prefer. This also applies to students following a minor programme. As an alternative to taking a course in periods 3 or 6, you can choose to take an extra course in another period.
Students generally take 2 - 3 courses in each of the first two periods, though this is not required. You could, for example, take one course during Period 1, three courses during Period 2, and one course during Period 3. We strongly recommend that you do not take more than 3 courses in any one period as this is usually too many, and most students are not able to take that many courses at once and still pass.
Please see the Practical Information section below for more information about the semester/period structure at VU Amsterdam and the ECTS credit system.
Choose a Maximum of 30 ECTS
A regular workload for one semester is 30 ECTS (usually 5 courses worth 6 ECTS each). Most students take 24 - 30 ECTS. If you do not have to meet specific degree requirements or other requirements set by your home university or study abroad provider, we recommend taking 2 courses per period. This will give you a little extra time to study and explore during your semester abroad.
Course Registration (Add/Drop) Deadlines
Below you can find the deadlines to add and drop courses for the academic year 2023/2024. Note that the deadline to add new courses occurs earlier than the deadline to remove courses, which means you will not have a chance to "try out" your courses before they start. Also note that if you are enrolled in a minor programme, you are only permitted to drop period 3 courses unless you want to drop the whole minor.
For courses that take place during two periods (courses in period 1+2 or 4+5), the registration deadline of the period in which the course starts always applies (period 1 for period 1+2 courses). If a course lists more than one period, this course is continuous and you must participate in both periods.
Course Registration (Add/Drop) Deadlines 2023-2024
Course Registration Add/Drop Deadlines 2023-2024
Fall 2023 (Semester One) Deadline to Add New Courses Deadline to Drop/Remove Courses Instruction Period (including exams) Period 1 11 September 11 September 4 September - 27 October Period 2 2 October 6 November 30 October - 22 December Period 3 (Optional) 11 December 15 January 8 January - 2 February Spring 2024 (Semester Two) Deadline to Add New Courses Deadline to Drop/Remove Courses Instruction Period (including exams) Period 4 15 January 12 February 5 February - 29 March Period 5 4 March 8 April 1 April - 31 May Period 6 6 May 10 June 3 - 28 June
Academic Calendar 2023/2024
Fall 2023 Semester (Semester One) 4 September 2023 - 2 February 2024 Introduction and Orientation Period 19 August - 1 September 2023 Period 1 4 September - 20 October 2023, Exams: 23 - 27 October Period 2 30 October - 15 December 2023, Exams: 18 - 22 December Period 3 (Optional) 8 - 26 January 2024, Exams: 29 - 2 February Spring 2024 Semester (Semester Two) 5 February - 28 June 2024 Practical Matters Day and Introduction Period 2 - 4 February 2024 Period 4 5 February - 21 March 2024, Exams: 22 March - 28 March Period 5
2 April - 24 May 2024, Exams: 27 - 31 May
No Teaching/Assessment: 29 April - 3 May
Period 6 (Optional) 3 - 21 June 2024, Exams: 24 June - 28 June
For more information, please consult the 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 (semester 1) and periods 4, 5, and 6 take place during the spring semester (semester 2). 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 of each semester. Courses that take place in more than one period (1+2, 4+5, etc.) are continuous courses that take place throughout the duration of both periods. If you want to enroll in the course, you must enroll in both periods; it's not possible to choose just one period or the other.
You are free to skip the last period and return home in December (Fall) or the end of May (Spring) if you prefer (this also applies to minor programmes). As an alternative to taking a course in periods 3 or 6, you can also choose to take 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 advise students not to take more than 3 courses in any one period.
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).
Your Timetable, Canvas, and Your VU Dashboard
The Academic Timetable: Rooster.vu.nl
Fall Semester Published in July Spring Semester Published in December
Course Registration will take place after the academic timetable has been published. Once you have been registered for courses, you can view these courses in your personal academic timetable by logging in with your VU ID and password at rooster.vu.nl. Please note that the timetable is public and can be viewed by anyone, but you can also view your personal course registrations by logging in using the link in the upper righthand corner.
Please note that in order to view your courses and exams, you must always first select the "List" tab and then the correct academic year and semester. Otherwise, some of your courses and exams will not appear. It is also possible to manually select and deselect groups or exams in your personal timetable. If you have de-selected the exam or a specific group, this will no longer appear in your timetable.
A few helpful notes about "groups":
- HC and LE stand for the main lecture – you are always required to take this group.
- TE/01 is the first exam – you must always take this group.
- TE/02 is the re-take exam - you cannot sign up for re-takes until after your final grades are published, but it's a good idea to keep this date in mind so that you know whether or not you will be present in Amsterdam and thus able to take the exam if needed.
- TE/02_Extra Time and TE/01_Extra Time refer to extra time for exams. Unless you have requested academic accommodations, you should ignore this. If you requested accommodations, this is when your extra time is scheduled.
- WG and SG stand for workgroup or seminar group. Not all courses will have one of these groups, but if it’s listed you must enroll in only one group (for example, WG08).
- Sometimes there are other sections listed such as DX (Digital Exam). You must always register for one of each section listed except for the re-sit exam (TE/02) – see notes about re-sits above.
- It is possible that a course only has one study group and no main lecture. In this case, you must register for the study group.
- If there is a main lecture listed in the timetable (HC), you must enroll in this group. If there is a study group with multiple sections (SG/04, SG/05 or WG/01, WG/02 etc.), you should only enroll in one of these groups.
- You should always plan to take the first final exam (TE/01). If there is a digital exam (DX), you must also enroll in this group unless the professor later states otherwise.
Some helpful tips about using the timetable:
- Note whether or not you need to be in a specific workgroup in order to avoid an overlap with another course.
- You can easily edit the timetables you have added via the list on the right side of the screen. You can simply de-select a timetable so that it no longer appears, or you can delete it from your list entirely.
- You can edit the groups you have selected by clicking the 3 dots which appear when you move your cursor over a course title in the panel on the right side of your screen.
- If two of your chosen courses have exam times that overlap, this is an overlap. You will need to choose a backup course selection instead. Don’t forget to check your exam times in the timetable.
- Once you have actually been registered for courses, you can remove all courses and groups you are not registered for from your timetable by clicking the 3 little dots which appear when you hover your cursor over “2022/23” in the panel on the right side of the screen and then clicking “Remove all and restore default timetables.” Then click “Remove All.”
Once your professors have added you to each of your registered courses, you can view your course materials using the VU online learning platform, Canvas. Keep in mind that Canvas is managed by your professors and is not a list of course registrations. Your professors must first add you to the course before you will see it in Canvas.
Questions about Canvas? You can find a full list of instruction videos and resources for students here.
Once your final grades have been published, you can find them in your VU Dashboard. Please note that only grades published in your VU Dashboard are final grades (grades published in Canvas are not final grades). All grades at VU Amsterdam are rounded up or down to the nearest decimal. Please see the information provided under Dutch Grading System below.
Exams and Re-Sit Exams
When the Semester in Amsterdam staff registers you for courses, we also register you for the final exam as well as the main lecture or workgroup for each course and any other listed sections (such as a digital exam - DX). Can't see your exams in your personal timetable? Please have a look at the "Academic Timetable and Online Learning Platform" tab .
You must be present in Amsterdam if you want to take the re-sit exam. Most courses offer the chance to take a re-sit exam if you fail the first exam, but if you only stay until period 2 in the Fall semester or period 5 in the Spring semester, then the date of the re-sit exam often occurs after you have already returned home. The Semester in Amsterdam staff does not have the power to arrange proctored re-sit exams.
Failing Grades and Re-Sit Exam Registration
If you have received a failing grade of less than 5.5 or a grade of NVD for the first exam, you will automatically be registered for the re-sit exam. If you did not take part in the first examination and received an NS (No Show), or if you passed the examination but want to receive a better grade, you must send a request to Semester in Amsterdam in order to be registered for the re-sit; you cannot do this yourself. We can register you for the re-sit exam as soon as the results of your first final exam are published in your VU Dashboard (*not Canvas) and up to 2 weeks before the date of the re-sit exam.
If you decide to take the re-sit exam, the re-sit grade is the grade that counts, even if it is lower than the grade you received for your first final exam. If you register for a re-sit but do not participate, a No Show will be registered but the grade you received on the original exam will still remain valid.
Dutch Grading System
Dutch grades range from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). The highest grades of 9 and 10 are only rarely awarded. An 8 is considered a high mark while 7's and 6's are more common. Grades from 1 (very poor) to 3 are rare. Grades of 5.5 and higher are passing grades in the Netherlands, but we advise you to confirm what constitutes a passing grade with your home university.
It is up to your home university to determine a conversion scale. Grades at VU Amsterdam are always rounded up or down. For example, an 8.3 will be rounded up to an 8.5 and an 8.2 will be rounded down to an 8.0. The exception to this rule is a 5.5, which is always rounded up to a 6.0.
Please be prepared for the fact that your final grade may be made up of only one final exam. Most courses offer the chance to take a re-sit exam if you fail the first exam, but if you only stay until period 2 in the Fall semester or period 5 in the Spring semester, then the resit exam will likely occur after you have returned home. You must be present in Amsterdam to take the re-sit exam.
ECTS % Quality Assessment Dutch grade 10% Excellent/Very good 8.0 - 10.0 25% Good 7.5 - 7.9 30% More than satisfactory 7.0 - 7.4 25% Satisfactory 6.5 - 6.9 10% Sufficient 5.5 - 6.4 Fail 0.0 - 5.4
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
Transcript of records
After completing your studies at VU Amsterdam you will receive a transcript of records.
Your study abroad provider or university may require that your final transcript include failed grades. If you participated in Semester in Amsterdam through direct enrollment (not via a provider), then you are free to request a transcript without failed grades. All students (regardless of whether they participated through a provider or not) have the option of requesting a transcript without failed grades 6 months after the completion of the programme.
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 email@example.com. Are you currently a student of another Dutch university wishing to register for a minor? Please contact the student desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.