Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology

Immerse yourself in familiar and unknown worlds

Studying Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology?

Why are Dutch voters attracted to populist parties? How does climate change affect the lives of people in Bangladesh? How are ethnic or gender identity constructed and given meaning around the world? The Bachelor's in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology trains you to understand the world by seeing it through other people's eyes.

VU Amsterdam's Bachelor's programme in Anthropology is rated the highest in the Netherlands, according to the 2019 Options Guide for Higher Education (Keuzegids Universiteiten). You will study universal topics such as immigration, globalisation, inequality and religion as well as untangle present-day dilemmas by deepening your understanding of how different groups of people live their lives. As a student of this Bachelor programme you are part of an international classroom with students and teachers from various (national) backgrounds. All courses are English-taught and designed from an international perspective.

As an anthropologist, you can find a job as a researcher at a social organisation, as a cultural specialist in the public or private sector, as a journalist, or as a policy advisor at a national or international institute. Are you interested in a specific issue, such as sustainability or identity? This bachelor’s programme offers you the opportunity to specialise in your area of interest.

Keuzegids Universiteiten 2019

You will explore how groups of people live as well as what choices they make and why. Your own senses will be your research tools as you observe people, interview them and even follow them for months. Your  aim is to discover what is happening below the surface.

  • Contact hours: ± 14 hours
  • Independent study: ± 28 hours
  • Total: ± 42 hours

First year
In the first year, you will become familiar with important themes in anthropology, such as culture, ethnicity, nationalism, power, religion and inequality. You will work on different techniques that you will use for the rest of your study programme, such as open interviewing, observing and ethnographic writing.
For more information on the first year, see our study guide.

Second year

In the second year, you will explore current anthropological issues, such as economics, politics, development, diversity, religion and migration. You will also do two research projects on issues related to large cities and organisations. During the second semester, you will take the course Social Sciences for Society along with students from other disciplines. You will choose one of the three major themes from Social Sciences: globalisation, diversity or digitisation. In lectures and workgroups, you will work towards thinking about solutions for societal challenges of the world today.
For more information on the second year, see our study guide.

Third year
The first semester is yours to design. You can complete a minor, do a work placement or study abroad. In the second semester, you will learn more about digital anthropology, work on practical research as part of a team and conduct your own ethnographic research, culminating in the writing of a Bachelor’s thesis.
For more information on the third year, see our study guide.

Programme overview

  • It’s the best anthropology bachelor’s programme in the Netherlands according to the 2019 Keuzegids ranking.
  • You will immediately start working with issues from your own environment, city, country and region.
  • Unlike at many other universities, you will work with students from other disciplines to find solutions to societal challenges such as globalisation, diversity and digitisation.
  • VU Amsterdam works closely with organisations and companies so that you can apply your acquired knowledge and skills and make a difference.
  • You are part of an international classroom with students and teachers from various national and religious backgrounds. Diversity is highly regarded at VU Amsterdam.
  • At VU Amsterdam, you will have the time and freedom to develop your own profile and choose what you find interesting.
  • Diversity is important at VU Amsterdam. Everyone is welcome.
  • You have an open attitude and are interested in people from backgrounds different to yours.
  • You would rather collect stories than numbers.
  • You are inquisitive by nature and are fascinated by societal developments as well as current issues. You have an idealistic personality and want to make a difference in the world.
  • You are an idealist at heart and want to make a difference in the world now and in future.
Master’s programmes
After the bachelor’s programme, you can further specialise by following a master's programme. You can opt for the follow-up master’s programme in Social and Cultural Anthropology, or you can choose one of the other master's programmes in social sciences.

Labour market
As an anthropologist, you could work as a researcher at a social organisation, as a cultural specialist in the public or private sector, as a journalist, or as a policy advisor at a national or international institute. Are you interested in a specific issue, such as sustainability or identity? This bachelor’s programme offers you the opportunity to specialise in your area of interest.

Do you have questions?

  • You can call us on +31 20 5985000 (on working days from 10.00 till 16.00).
  • Or email us at
  • Furthermore, you can also send us a text message on Whatsapp on +31 6 825 48 367.

Do you have a question about admission?

Students with a Dutch degree:

  • Please contact the Student Desk on +31 20 5985020 from 10.30 – 12.30 or 14.00 – 17.00).
  • Or email them at

Students with an international degree:

For questions about admission and entry requirements, please contact the International Student Advisor:

Gijs van Ierssel

Contact a Student Ambassador
Would you like to hear from an international VU student about their student journey, what it is like to study at VU, the programme that they are doing and/or their student life in Amsterdam? Contact our student ambassadors! Our Student Ambassadors come from all over the world and would be happy to answer all your questions.

VU Bachelor's day
Come join our Open Day and see for yourself what it’s like to study Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at VU Amsterdam! Register here.

Taster day
Come to a Taster day at the VU campus in Amsterdam's Zuidas district and experience what it is like to be a student at VU Amsterdam. Please sign up for the Taster Day.

VU Matching enables you to check whether you have chosen the right degree programme. The matching programme consists of two steps: a digital questionnaire on VUnet, which is part of the application process, and a matching activity (June). By taking part in the matching activity, you can check whether the programme is really the right one for you. For more information, please see the VU Matching website.

Please note: you will only be invited to the Matching activity if you have logged in to VUnet, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s information portal. It is also important that you fill in the digital matching questionnaire on VUnet before you join the matching activity! Doing so means you have completed the first step of VU Matching and are well prepared for the matching activity. The invitations for the activity will be issued from the end of April 2020.

Online matching for international students
Are you an international student and not able to make it to VU campus for the matching? No problem, we will prepare an online VU Matching activity just for you! Just make sure that we can send you an invitation by logging in to VUnet. If you happen to be in the Netherlands (already) and wish to go to Matching Day instead, please write down Wednesday afternoon 10 June. Please contact us for the programme.

Would you like to know more?

Further details about VU Matching are available at VU Matching website. If you have specific questions about the Cultural Anthropology and Developmental Sociology matching day, please get in touch at Have a look at: Application and registration regulation.

Admission criteria and application

If you have obtained or will obtain a Dutch diploma, please check the criteria on our Dutch webpage. Applicants holding a diploma from another country must meet a number of requirements:

  1. A diploma equivalent to the Dutch pre-university VWO diploma
    See the Diploma Requirement List for examples of accepted diplomas per country.
    Please note: this list is meant to give you an indication of admissibility; no rights can be derived from it.

  2. Proof of sufficient proficiency in English
    See the General Admission Requirements for the English language requirement.

  3. Proof of sufficient proficiency in Mathematics
    After you apply to the programme and upload the required documents in our student portal, your International Student Advisor will have a look at your transcripts to determine whether your diploma is equivalent to the Dutch VWO diploma and whether your mathematics level is sufficient.

These examples of diplomas demonstrate sufficient proficiency in the required level of mathematics:

  • International Baccalaureate: All IB Mathematics subjects.
  • British GCE A-Levels: A-levels or AS-level in Mathematics with a grade A, B or C.
  • Germany: Zeugnis der allgemeinen Hochschulreife
  • European Baccalaureate: Mathematics; written or oral examination, at least 3 hours during the Orientation Cycle.

If your diploma is not considered to be at the right level and/or if your proficiency in mathematics is considered to be insufficient, your International Student Advisor will inform you about the possibilities how to meet the requirements with additional certificates. When advised to sit an entry exam, the following certificates are deemed equivalent to the required Dutch VWO Mathematics C level.

Exams in the Netherlands
Boswell-Bèta (English). Boswell-Bèta in Utrecht (the Netherlands) provides a VWO Mathematics C exam in May, July and August.

Application procedures
Please check our step-by-step application guide for more information. International applicants will be asked to submit the following documents:

  • Transcript(s) of records (e.g. High School grade list)
  • Curriculum Vitae (your personal details, previous education and any relevant work experience in approximately one A4 page)
  • Copy of valid passport
  • English language test results (if already obtained) 
Deadline: International students who require university housing and/or a student visa must apply before 1 April. Students who do not require university housing and/or a student visa must apply before 1 May. You will be informed about your admission within four weeks after the completion of your application (including all required documents).

Ready to apply?
Great! All applicants must start the application procedure through the portal.

Thijl Sunier

Professor of Anthropology, teaches the course 'challenges of the 21st century’

"Anthropologists are crucial to address current challenges in society and understand phenomena like religion, ethnicity and identity. I have done a lot of research among Muslims with ‘radical’ views. How do they look at the world? How does their view explain that some of them are prepared to use violence? These are the kinds of questions anthropologists ask. Our drive is to really understand people, instead of drawing easy conclusions."

Mohammed Badran

Second year student

"I hope to use anthropology as a way to empower people and draw on their own ideas to find solutions. When I lived in Syria I did developmental projects and I’m continuing this in the Netherlands. I’m intrigued by how migrants shape and claim a new identity in their new country - but I don’t want to limit myself to migration issues. For example, I did a group project during which we researched how the image that tourists have of Amsterdam is shaped."

Dara Schoenwald

Anthropologist and environmental activist from the US

"If you want to do environmental work, cultural anthropology is a smart study choice. I work for a startup that sets up water stations in my hometown Miami. Our goal is to make people refill their water bottles more often, to fight plastic waste. To succeed we have to understand how people think. For example: the water is purified, which appeals to the people of Miami, since they are really into health. A green future is not about technology, but about people and culture."

Overview Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology




3 years (fulltime)


1 April (students requiring visa and/or housing services) / 1 May (students who do not require visa and/or housing services)


1 September




A minimum of 42 credits


Behavioural and Social Sciences