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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.


Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2

First semester

History and Politics in Africa 5
Researching Africa in the 21st Century 5
Economy, Geography and Society in Africa 5
Africa in Practice 7,5
Intensive Methods Clinic 2.5

Choose between:

Language and Communication in Africa 5
Literature, Art and Culture in Africa: African postcolonial theories and literary criticism 5

Second semester

Research internship (Field assignment) 15
MA Thesis African Studies 12
Communicating Research 3

More info


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 MA” 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 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 15 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.

Career Preparation

Career Preparation in African Studies

The programme

The curriculum of the one year’s master in African Studies is characterised by multidisciplinarity which 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-economic and political factors at play in Africa. They also acquire insight into the issues that are particularly relevant for this continent and it societies. Moreover, they learn how to apply methods and methodologies from different disciplines in their research.
How can you use this knowledge and the skills that you acquire? Which focus should you choose within your study programme and why? What skills do you already have, and what further skills do you still want to learn? How do you translate the courses that you followed into something that you’d like to do after graduation?
These questions and more will be discussed at various times during your study programme. You may already have spoken about them with your study coordinator, the Humanities Career Service or other students, or made use of the Leiden University Career Zone. Many different activities are organised to help you reflect on your own wishes and options, and give you the chance to explore the job market. All these activities are focused on the questions: ‘What can I do?’, ‘What do I want?’ and ‘How do I achieve my goals?’.


You will be notified via the Faculty website, your study programme website and email about further activities in the area of job market preparation. The following activities will help you to thoroughly explore your options, so we advise you to take careful note of them:

Transferable skills

Future employers are interested not only in the subject-related knowledge that you acquired during your study programme, but also in ‘transferable skills’. These include cognitive skills, such as critical thinking, reasoning and argumentation and innovation; intrapersonal skills, such as flexibility, initiative, appreciating diversity and metacognition; and interpersonal skills, such as communication, accountability and conflict resolution. In short, they are skills that all professionals need in order to perform well.
It is therefore important that during your study programme you not only acquire as much knowledge as possible about your subject, but also are aware of the skills you have gained and the further skills you still want to learn. The course descriptions in the Prospectus of the Master’s Programme in African Studies include, in addition to the courses’ learning objectives, a list of the skills that they aim to develop.
The skills you may encounter in the various courses are:

  • Collaborative skills

  • Persuasive skills

  • Research – and analytical skills

  • Self-directed learning

  • Creative thinking

Courses of the Master African Studies

Courses of the study programme obviously help to prepare you for the job market. As a study programme, we aim to cover this topic either directly or less directly in each semester. Within the MA African Studies , job market preparation is interwoven in almost all courses, with a special accent given in the courses Research Internship (Field assignment) and Communicating Research:

  • Economy, Geography and Society in Africa: guest lectures from practitioners from the world of business, media, NGOs, and diplomacy which are linked to academic lectures. Students get training and practice moderation skills. Also final essay and oral presentation by small groups.

  • Researching Africa in the 21st Century: assignments in the form of multi-media products.

  • Intensive methods clinic: students have access to a digital humanities laboratory to learn about and work with a variety of digital and visual techniques for their data collection, analysis and presentation of findings. The lab offers both skills workshops and individual guidance in the research and the publication of its outcomes.

  • Africa in Practice: organization of a 12 weeks research internship.

  • Research internship (field assignment): Students gain research experience with an Africa-related non-academic professional organization. In this way, students will also practice their networking and collaborative skills and become acquainted with working with working in a professional setting.

  • Communicating research: students will learn about and practice communication skills, such as pitching and networking, but will also learn how to make use of visual and digital tools to translate the results of their work in a multi-modal/media end-product and communicate these to an audience, i.e. academic, popular and decision-makers. These two main threads will be offered in two parallel tracks and come together in the presentation of the end-products and in interactions during a mini-conference with external guests that will be organized and hosted by the students.

  • In all disciplinary courses, students practice and develop their analytical skills, as well as their written and oral presentation skills. In the course Language and Communication in Africa, there is an extra accent on new forms of publication in visual, textual, audio and other formats.


If you have any questions about career choices, whether in your studies or on the job market, you are welcome to make an appointment with the career adviser of the the Humanities Career Service 071-5272235, or with your coordinator of studies, Annelies de Koning,

Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Leiden Elective Academic Periodical - Special Issue #2 "Nature" 10