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African Studies

The MA in African Studies – unique in the Netherlands – is a multidisciplinary study, which offers you the chance to take an in-depth look at the African continent from a variety of perspectives. You will study the major historical, cultural, socio-economical and political factors currently affecting the continent, which will give you a solid knowledge based upon which to build post-graduation.
You have the opportunity to develop your own profile, both in the coursework and in writing your master’s thesis.


This multidisciplinary programme offers students the opportunity to study the African
continent from many different angles. As a result, students acquire solid knowledge and
understanding of the major historical, literary, cultural, socio-economical and political
factors at play in Africa. They also acquire insight into the issues that are particularly
relevant within this continent.

Such knowledge is essential for any profession that involves contact with Africa, for
instance policy-making positions within the government, positions within NGOs
concerned with development cooperation, positions in international organisations,
journalism and public relations. Besides specialist knowledge of Africa, students
also develop a number of general skills that form valuable assets in their search for
employment and make a relevant job experience thanks to a period of internship in Africa. Moreover, the programme aims to raise students to a level of knowledge
and skills that allows them to proceed to PhD research.


The first semester is devoted to group teaching and is both a broadening and deepening of the BA-programme as well as a preparation for the MA-thesis. The “Aims and Results of Africanist research” is the first course in the programme. This course is
multidisciplinary and is taught by lecturers from the Faculties of Humanities and Social
Sciences and from the Centre for African Studies. The course covers subjects that are
essential to every student studying the African continent, such as demographics, ecology, environment, the history of slavery, colonialism, and modern African politics, as well as economics and literature . Parallel to this first, quite intensive, block of courses, shared with students from the Research Master African Studies, the students follow one more course. Followed by three courses in the second block of the first semester. Already during the first semester, students start thinking about their MA Thesis, for which a special Thesis seminar is designed, and they prepare for their internship. Students are advised to go to Africa in the beginning of the second semester, for a field assignment.
From April onwards, when they have “returned from the field”,
students start writing their MA thesis.

Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation

In order to graduate, students must have successfully completed the 60 ec programme
and have completed their final thesis as a component of that programme. The thesis
carries 20 ec, i.e. 5 ec thesis seminar, and 15 ec thesis, and as a rule will not exceed a maximum of 17,000 words including notes,
bibliography and appendices. To a large extent, the second semester will be dedicated
to writing the master’s thesis. Insofar as possible, students are expected to conduct their
research in Africa.

C.q. The student has to hand in two hard copies and one electronic version of his/her thesis at the administration.

Starting the programme in February

Leiden University offers the possibility to start MA programmes in February. If you
choose to do so, please take up contact early with the coordinator of the programme, as we will have to set up a special programme.