Mathematics

The language of science

MATHEMATICS: BEAUTIFUL AND UBIQUITOUS

This challenging 3-year bachelor's degree programme provides unparalleled possibilities for specializing in both pure and applied mathematics. It gives you a head start for a career in research, industry, education, or consultancy. It also forms an excellent preparation for just about any quantitative Master’s degree programme. This programme will be English-taught, starting September 2018.

Whether you’re driven by pure curiosity in mathematical structures or by modern applications of these, at VU Amsterdam you will discover the beauty and ubiquity of mathematics. You can learn for example about distribution of prime numbers and geometry of graphs, as well as applications of these in cryptography and big data. Our lecturers are world-leading researchers that use innovative teaching methods. Lectures are accompanied by exercise classes, in which you receive personal feedback from your tutors. Our study counsellors will make sure that you choose the study path that suits you best.

Main characteristics of this programme:

  • Strong mathematical basis laid in year one. Choice between majors Pure and Applied Mathematics from year two.
  • Both Majors structured into study tracks. Education track can be chosen in both Majors. Many optional courses to choose from.
  • Lecturers are also top researchers that can teach you all about the most recent developments in mathematics.
  • Personal feedback and attention from tutors and counsellors will help you succeed, and make you feel at home.
  • Graduates from this programme have obtained Master's degrees in Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, Computational Science, Theoretical Physics, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, Business Analytics, Econometrics and Operations Research, Stochastics and Financial Mathematics, Actuarial Science, Quantitative Risk Management, etc.
  • The vast majority of our graduates easily obtained interesting and well-payed jobs.

Overview Mathematics programme:

Programma Mathematics overview

DO YOU WANT TO BE A MATHEMATICIAN? JOIN IN A TASTER SESSION!

Are you good at mathematics and not afraid of formulas? Are you keen to get to the bottom of things? Then we would like to meet you during a taster session on our VU campus on Amsterdam’s Zuidas.

Study programme

The first year consists of a well-balanced programme that you follow together with all your fellow freshmen Mathematics students. This gives you a firm mathematical basis for the rest of your studies. In year two you decide to continue with a major in either Pure or Applied Mathematics. Various study tracks and numerous optional courses allow you to pursue your personal interests. During your minor in the first half of year three, you focus entirely on your favourite topic. You can also pursue your minor at a foreign university. The programme finishes with a research project in which everything you learnt is combined.

Within the major Pure Mathematics, you can choose between the following tracks:

  • Algebra and Geometry: If you’re into abstract algebraic structures or geometric constructions, this is the right track for you. In this track, you follow courses like Number Theory, Galois Theory, Differential Geometry, and Representation Theory.
  • Analysis and Dynamical Systems: This track evolves around mathematical models for many physical and societal processes. These models are used to predict for example the weather, the outbreak of diseases, and the spread of information over the internet. Courses include Chaotic Dynamical Systems, Partial Differential Equations, and Functional Analysis.
  • Probability and Statistics: in this track you study the fundamentals of probability theory and mathematical statistics. You will learn about powerful statistical methods and surprising probabilistic paradoxes in courses like Statistical Data Analysis, Measure Theory, Markov Chains, and Bayesian Statistics.

Within the major Applied Mathematics, you can choose between the following tracks:

  • Biomedical science: in this track, which is unique in the Netherlands, you learn how to Calculate Life! You follow courses in Mathematics, Biology, and Medicine, and you obtain all the necessary tools for solving quantitative problems in the life sciences. Examples include the analysis of the human genome, the search for new medicine, and the understanding of the brain. Courses include Biochemistry, Mathematical Biology, Bioinformatics, and Neuroscience.
  • Computer science: This is the right track for you if you want to become an expert mathematical programmer, or theoretical computer scientist. You follow courses like Computer Networks, Data Structures and Algorithms, and Advanced Programming.
  • Econometrics: This track prepares you for quantitative jobs in business, economics, or banking. Mathematicians from this track find jobs as risk analyst, financial analyst, actuary, and even as option trader. Courses in this track include Mathematical Economics, Operations Research, and Financial Mathematics.
  • Data science: Be part of the data revolution and follow courses like Statistical Data Analysis and Machine Learning.

Finally, within both majors, you can choose the track Education, which is taught in Dutch. After completing the Education track, you receive a qualification ("2e graadsbevoegdheid") for teaching in Dutch high schools.


More information on the courses

Joblessness is rare among mathematicians: they find jobs in technology companies, banks, ministries, hospitals, consultancy, IT, scientific research and education. Your knowledge of fundamental and applied mathematics as a VU mathematician will suit you for a range of jobs, and most companies and institutions are highly interested in the general analytical and problem-solving skills you will develop. As a consequence, mathematicians end up in an enormous diversity of jobs.

Your VU Bachelor’s degree certificate qualifies you straightaway for the VU Master’s programmes in Mathematics and Stochastic and Financial Mathematics. Depending on the chosen tracks and courses, there are various other Master’s programmes you can enroll in, including Business Analytics, Econometrics and Operations research, and Bioinformatics and Systems Biology.

Tisiana Henricus

Tisiana Henricus

"Mathematics is a real challenge – you have to be up for that. The lecturers are very interactive. What I like about VU is that all the programmes are located on the same campus, making it very easy to take subsidiary courses. There are also lots of international students, which creates a very diverse and fun atmosphere."


Britt

Britt van Leeuwen

"The Mathematics programme is a great challenge. I'm still not sure what I want to do with my Mathematics degree in the future, although an assistant professorship or a career as a researcher would be nice."


David

David Koetsier

"I took the three-year Bachelor's programme in Mathematics at VU Amsterdam and now I'm taking the Master's degree in Mathematics here as well. Specifically, I'm taking the Algebra and Geometry track, which focuses on pure mathematics. It's often difficult to visualise exactly what you are doing. The exercise problems are often more like puzzles than straightforward calculations – these are my favourite types of assignments."

Harold Nieuwboer

Harold Nieuwboer
"I'm an alumnus of the Bachelor in Mathematics at VU Amsterdam, and went on to do my masters degree at the University of Cambridge in the UK. This undergraduate programme definitely provided a great introduction to the subject and serves as a good foundation for further mathematical development. I am currently primarily interested in geometry, and particularly in symplectic geometry."


Schermer

Judith Schermer

"The atmosphere within the Mathematics programme is very informal. The lecturers are very approachable, and you can visit them in their offices at any time if you have questions. I like applying mathematics in practice, which is why I took a number of courses in Econometrics and Computer Science. I like how easy it is to take courses within different faculties, and my knowledge of maths is very useful for these courses. Next year, I plan to take a Master's programme in Applied Mathematics, Business Analytics or Econometrics."


Nicolai

Nikolai Zaki

"My time in the Mathematics programme is extremely useful for my Physics programme, as well as for arousing my interest in science in general. By learning the underlying theories of calculus, dynamical systems and statistics, I laid the foundations for a huge number of disciplines. During my Master's programme, I want to combine mathematics with neuroscience."


VU Wiskunde alumnus Rick Boere

Rick Boere
‘Doing doctoral research is like studying’

You currently work as a doctoral researcher at Eindhoven University of Technology. How did you end up there?
‘Before graduating and doing my Master’s thesis, I did a ten-month work placement at TNO. After that it was time to take a break. I decided to take it easy for a few months to figure out what I wanted to do. In January I ended up at Eindhoven University of Technology and also moved to Eindhoven. It takes time to get used to a new city. Fortunately, I have a nice house for myself: in Amsterdam I had no fewer than twenty housemates.’

What is your research about?
‘Briefly put, it’s about how to optimise traffic flows using stochastic models. A stochastic model is a process in which a phenomenon takes place in time or space with stochastic variables as outcomes, i.e., random quantities.’

What did you have to get used to after graduating?
‘At the end of the day, doctoral research is not unlike studying. For instance, I still take courses, I’m always learning new things and even the environment (a University!) is still the same. So for me, it wasn’t that big of a transition. It must be a different story if you take up a mega commercial company job.’

Why did you choose to study Mathematics at VU Amsterdam?
‘After secondary school I actually wanted to be an air traffic controller, but I was too young to enter into the selection process. So I decided to study maths because I was good at it and I always found it an interesting subject at school.’

What do you learn in practice that you do not learn from lectures?
‘I’m lucky to have a nice supervisor who helps me decide on the course of my doctoral research. Thanks to this, I haven’t really got stuck yet. I can imagine that without such supervision it would be hard to plot the course of your research.’

How is your study useful to you in practice?
‘Above all the Mathematics programme teaches you to think logically, to have a certain way of thinking. This enables you to apply new theories easily in your work and to solve problems quickly. It’s really not the case that I can now rattle off certain formulas. But in my doctoral research I do still benefit a lot from my specific mathematical knowledge.’

What do you want to do after obtaining your PhD?
‘I do think I’ll want to make the switch from the academic setting to the commercial one. I sometimes miss working on really practical issues, even though the research I’m doing is quite practical and non-theoretical already. This is because we also work with a consultancy firm which offers advice in the field of traffic flows.’

What was your favourite hangout at VU Amsterdam?
‘The clubhouse of STORM, the study association of Mathematics among other studies. I often spent time there during breaks; it was the spot at university where I really felt at home. The good atmosphere at STORM was also a reason why I moved into a student house.’


Martijn Zaal

Martijn Zaal
‘The high-tech industry is highly knowledge-intensive and research-oriented’

What exactly is the role of a physical model designer at ASML?
‘ASML produces lithography machines for the largest electronics companies in the world. Our customers use these machines to make chips. Stronger and more durable chips require ever more precise machines. As a physical model designer, I’m working every day to improve the software and algorithms. I’m working on the software for YieldStar, a metrology machine. With this machine you can measure what has been created on a “wafer” (a disc on which chips are made) after certain production steps. Algorithms can be thought of as mathematical recipes: they tell you how to use certain “ingredients” to achieve a result. We work on subproblems, pieces of a larger puzzle, in multidisciplinary teams that include physicists and others. My work is highly exploratory and there’s a lot of mathematics and physics to it.’

How did you end up at ASML?
‘After my doctoral research I worked in Bonn as a postdoc. I had a temporary contract and the subjects I was really interested in were not the subjects that would earn you grants. That’s when I reached a tipping point; I wanted to have some hands-on experience again. The high-tech industry is highly knowledge-intensive and research-oriented, so I knew which sector it had to be. ASML has attractive programmes and gives a lot of attention to your personal development, for instance by developing your management expertise.’

What do you like most about your work and what do you like least?
‘Putting the puzzle together, problem-solving, is immensely enjoyable. Working together on one team with people from entirely different disciplines is very instructive. The time-pressure is not so enjoyable. Sometimes it prevents you from achieving the perfect solution, as you don’t want to keep customers waiting for days. I’m a perfectionist and I prefer to keep fiddling until I’m completely satisfied myself.’

You did doctoral research first; why didn’t you start in a company straightaway?
‘The decision wasn’t obvious to me from the start. After graduating I hesitated for a while about starting in a company. The freedom to investigate problems you find interesting is what attracted me to the academic world. I was lucky: after my Master’s research I was immediately offered a doctoral position. So I didn’t take long to decide.’

What are you most proud of in your career?
‘Before I started on my doctoral programme, my supervisor was sceptical about what I wanted to do research on. Apparently, my subject was very out-of-the-box. I was working on a simple mathematical model for the swelling of a cell because of osmosis. The novelty about the research was that I used a so-called “gradient flow” to describe the problem. In the end I managed to prove an important theorem. When I talk about my research, people are still amazed that I managed it, and I’m proud of that.’

Why did you choose to study Mathematics?
‘When I was sixteen I wanted to be a judge. This dream was shattered when I attended a case study during a taster session at the Faculty of Law; I was bored stiff. In secondary school I was good at maths, so I started on the Bachelor’s programmes in Mathematics and Econometrics, and I saw them both through. ’

Is there someone or something at VU Amsterdam you look back on especially fondly?
‘Riekus Kok, now an emeritus professor, has a gift to make difficult course material understandable. On top of that his lectures were fun; this man is an icon. He also encouraged me to continue doing two Bachelor’s programmes and to obtain higher marks.’

What would you say to current or prospective mathematics students?
‘Do something beside your study. It’s great if it’s related to what you are studying, but that’s not essential. Look beyond your specialisation from time to time. I myself taught support classes and contributed to planning software during my student days. Doing extracurricular activities teaches you interdisciplinary skills, gives you a feeling for applied science and will allow you to stand out on the job market.’

As a prospective Mathematics student at VU Amsterdam you will take part in the VU Matching programme. VU Matching is an element of the application procedure for all bachelor degree programmes. It consists of two parts, you must fill out a digital questionnaire on VUnet and participate in a matching activity organised by the study programme. The matching activity aims to give you a realistic idea of the content of the study, so you can determine if it matches your expectations and, whether you have chosen the right programme.

Dutch nationals were expected to participate in the matching activity on campus. This activity took place on Tuesday June 5, 2018. If you were unable to attend you can request access to the online matching activity from matching.beta@vu.nl.

International students are expected to participate in a digital matching activity once they are conditionally admitted. Invitations will be send in the beginning of March, by the end of April and in the beginning of June.

Note: Participation in the matching activity is mandatory for all Mathematics students!

If you have questions about the matching activity, please contact the matching coordinator of the Faculty of Sciences: matching.beta@vu.nl. For general information about matching check the website VU Matching [Dutch] or VU Matching [English].

* Don't forget to prepare yourself before coming to the matching activity by studying the theory and making the exercises about probabilities in this document. You do not have to hand in your answers to the questions, but the lecture probability theory will build upon them.

It is possible to take mathematics as a part-time programme. The content of the part-time programme is equal to the full time programme: you take courses together with full-time students, but you take fewer courses each year. Your programme is therefore stretched out over a longer period. It does not involve evening classes or classes on fixed days. With an average workload of 50% (20 hours per week), the programme will take six years, while every now and then a full-time project will be conducted.

With the study advisor, you will agree on a concrete study path with regard to the order in which the courses are best taken, taking into account your prior knowledge and availability. We advise coming to the VU several days per week and making your availability as flexible as possible due to changing timetables.

Some international students are happy to tell you about their experiences with living and studying in Amsterdam. These Student Ambassadors come from all over the world and have attended various bachelor's and master's programmes.

Our student ambassadors are listed here on this webpage: vu.nl/ambassadors.

Reach out to them and get their stories about being a student at VU Amsterdam!

If you have a specific question about applying with a non-Dutch diploma you can contact our International Student Advisor. The ISA will help you with practicalities about your bachelor admission and support you throughout the application process.

Julia Tan                          Alexander Lindemans
M: bachelors.fs@vu.nl     M: bachelors.fs@vu.nl
T: +31 20 5984212          T: +31 205982788

Juliatan2017                  Alexander Lindemans

General contact and contact for Dutch students:

What's your question about?Where to get your answers
Questions about the content of the programme
Ilona van den Brink (student ambassador)
Corrie Quant (Study advisor)
Admission and application
Studentenbalie
studentenbalie@vu.nl
Working days from 10.30 till 12.30 h and 14.00 till 17.00 h at 020-5985020.
Information days, taster days
Communication & Marketing dept.
studiekeuze.beta@vu.nl

Nikos Galatis

STUDENT MATHEMATICS

Nikos

"Within the major Pure Mathematics, you can choose courses from three tracks: Algebra & Geometry, Analysis & Dynamical Systems, and Probability & Statistics. You are therefore free to immerse yourself in the type of maths you enjoy the most. I chose to focus on both Algebra and Analysis, more specifically partial differential equations. The lecturers really know their stuff. It's a privilege to be taught by them."

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 subject Mathematics:

  • International Baccalaureate: Mathematics Higher Level.
  • British GCE A-Levels: A-level in Mathematics. At least grade A,B or C.
  • Germany: Zeugnis der allgemeinen Hochschulreife, including Mathematics as Leistungsfach.
  • European Baccalaureate:  Mathematics; written or oral examination, at least 4 hours during the Orientation Cycle.

If your proficiency in this subject 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 Dutch VWO Mathematics B.

International Exams

  • International Baccalaureate certificate in Mathematics HL
  • Another option for obtaining a separate course certificate in Mathematics is to take A-level examinations at a registered Cambridge school. Please check here to find the nearest Cambridge school in your country.


Exams in the Netherlands

Boswell-Bèta (English). Boswell-Bèta in Utrecht (the Netherlands) provides VWO Mathematics B with exams in December, May and July.

CCVX (Dutch and English). CCVX offers VWO Mathematics B.

Dutch students
Admission and application information for Dutch students can be found on our Dutch website.

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 Studielink.nl portal.

Overview Mathematics

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

3 years

APPLICATION

APPLICATION DEADLINE

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

START DATE

1 September

STUDY TYPE

Part-time, Full-time

BINDING STUDY ADVICE

A minimum of 42 credits

FIELD OF INTEREST

Computer Science, Mathematics and Business