Programme Scope and Specializations


Our elective courses are challenging. In them, we examine state-of-the-art academic literature relating to topics such as globalization, health economics, transport economics, and human development. The subjects discussed during these courses are often a reflection of current public debate.

The programme will train you to be an economic generalist, while offering you the unique opportunity to specialize in a number of well-defined focus areas (specializations). You will gain a thorough understanding of prominent economic tools in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. The four different specialization tracks will allow you to acquire further expertise in an area of particular interest to you.

Taking a specialization (consisting of a specific combination of elective courses) is optional, and students with highly varied interests or who would prefer to exercise a range of talents can freely pick and mix from our list of elective courses. In addition, these students can also choose one elective course from outside the programme (subject to prior approval from the examination board).

Those who wish to gain more expertise in a particular policy field can choose from among the following four specializations:

Development economics
The subdepartment of Development Economics forms one of the strongest research groups in development economics in the country and in Europe. Research topics focus on:

  • The role of constraints (e.g. through exposure to risk) on the ability of households to escape from poverty through asset accumulation
  • The potential for sustainable land use in areas with rapid population growth
  • The economic implications of migration, both within developing countries and from developing to developed countries
  • The scope for economic growth through industrial development

The approach is strongly empirical, using case studies or survey data for individual households or firms to test competing theories and to evaluate the impact of implemented policy initiatives and specific development projects.
These topics, along with aggregate aspects of growth and inequality, and broader issues of human development, shape the curriculum of the Development Economics specialization. There is also close cooperation with the University of Amsterdam, where some teaching takes place. Graduates will find excellent employment opportunities with governments, NGOs, and international organizations as well as consultancy firms focusing on trade and development.


Economic and Social Policy
Backbone of this specialization is the applied microeconomics group, considered to be one of the strongest economics research groups in the country. All of its three focus areas are covered in the specialization:

  • The Labor program bridges the gap between micro- and macroeconomic approaches to labor market policies. In particular the role of institutions (such as the social security system, or the existence of minimum wages) is being analyzed for the functioning, adequate design, and evaluation of policy interventions in the labor market
  • Industrial Organization concerns strategies of firms to gain market power and the role of government to enhance transparency. Attention is paid to important aspects of regulation and competition policy such as merger control, break-up of collusion and stimulation of innovation
  • The economics of health, work and ageing addresses the consequences of population ageing for the organization of social (security) and health care institutions and policies to improve work, health and longevity outcomes

Graduates have been successful at landing jobs with competition (and other supervisory) authorities, governments, European institutions, as well as private banks, insurers and consultants.

International and Macroeconomic Policy.
This specialization builds upon foundations of advanced macroeconomics: What determines long-run growth and productivity, what is the use of fiscal and monetary policy for economic stabilization? Specialization courses discuss, inter alia, strategies in coordination and cooperation needed to maintain and promote the integration of Europe: How are tasks divided between EU and national authorities, can the Euro area be stabilized and is further expansion desirable? Another area focuses on growth in developing nations: What role do institutional (social and political) factors play in promoting growth, how do incentives affect savings and investment of households and firms, and what is the impact of foreign aid on development? Finally, insight is given into the drivers of growth in industrialized countries, specifically the strategies of firms to boost innovation and growth, and the role of policy.

Our highly reputable teaching faculty has an international track record in academia, central banking, and policy advice. Graduates have started careers in (central) banking, applied policy research, as well as government policy. Prospects go well beyond national boundaries, and include employment in international organizations, foreign governments, NGOs, and multinational corporations.

Spatial Economics
This specialization studies the economics of space, transport and environment. Global warming, traffic congestion and core-periphery structures in economic activity are three examples of main issues that are addressed in course work. All courses feature the application of relevant theoretical and empirical insights to practical issues: what is the role of cities and agglomeration forces for regional economic development? What is the appropriate way to deal with climate change that has an impact over the coming centuries? How much traffic infrastructure should we provide to facilitate ever growing travel demand? You will learn to use modern tools of analysis to investigate potential solutions and formulate policy recommendations.

The Department of Spatial Economics that conducts the teaching in this specialization, hosts internationally renowned staff, all actively participating in national and international economic policy debates. After completing course work and thesis you are well equipped for a career as a policy economist in international or national government agencies such as the European Commission or ministries, policy analysis institutions, internationally operating consultancy firms, and major transport organizations like airlines or railways. 

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