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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 base 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.
During this programme you eventually choose to focus on one of two main disciplines:

  • African History

  • African Literature


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 region.

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. 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, literature and music. After this first, quite intensive, block of courses, the
students follow three more courses. One is “Processes of Africanist Research”, which is
shared with the Research Master, but has a lower studies’ load. Parallel to this second
block course, the students follow two seminars, one focusing on African history, the
other focusing on African literature. The students follow the course “Language, Culture
and Cognition” during the full semester. Already during the first semester, students
start thinking about their MA Thesis. There are three so-called regio courses in the second
semester. This enables students to conduct research in Africa or elsewhere or take courses
at another university. From April onwards, when they have “returned from the field”,
students start writing their MA thesis. In addition, they follow one regional
course, on a particular region in Africa. It is also possible to follow the course Connecting dreams: Europe in Africa/Africa in Europe instead, that starts in the beginning of the second semester.

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, 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. In order to prepare for research and to learn how to place the subject
of their master’s thesis in a scholarly context, students are expected to take a literature
exam. Also see:

C.q. The student has to hand in two hard copies and one electronic version of his 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.