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Leiden MSc programme in Astronomy

Leiden Observatory offers a two-year programme leading to the degree of Master of Science (credits: 120 ECTS). Students of any nationality are eligible for this programme. Required for admission is (a) possession of a Bachelor's degree with (b) a good background in mathematics, physics, and basic astronomy roughly equivalent to that provided by the obligatory courses of our Bachelor of Science program. The master's programme consists of advanced courses in astronomy, and two research projects. All courses are taught in English. The programme can be started in September (deadline April 1st) or January (Deadline October 15th)

At Leiden Observatory, education and research focus on two major themes: the formation and evolution of galaxies, from high-redshifts to the nearby universe, and the birth and death of stars, including the lifecycle of gas and dust. Astronomers at Leiden Observatory have access to the best observational facilities in the world, including the Hubble Space Telescope, ESO's Very Large Telescope, Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, XMM, AXAF, etc. Leiden Observatory also hosts the Sackler Laboratory for Astrophysics, where experiments monitor the chemistry of interstellar ices under simulated space conditions. Researchers have access to the fastest supercomputers through the Netherlands Centre for Supercomputing Facilities (NCF).

Leiden University offers four different streams in the Astronomy Master of Science programme. One stream is dedicated to research; the other three are research programmes combined with training in Communication, Education or Science-Based Business.


All streams are primarily intended for students with a recognized education in astronomy on the Bachelor level. The Master of Science degree guarantees thorough research training with a profound theoretical basis. Master of Science students in Leiden work in a multi-nationality environment and can operate on the international market. With the Master of Science streams Communication, Education or Science-Based Business, specific career opportunities in science related professions can be explored. All students with a Master of Science degree are admissible to a PhD program.

Structure of the MSc programme

The Master of Science programme in Astronomy is individually tailored for each student, although it always consists of three parts. Each Master student takes a number of courses in subdisciplines related to the chosen Master stream. The most intensive part of the all streams is the research project which may take up to one year to finish. The result of this research project is the Master thesis. Master students also have to complete a minor research project, or a practical internship typically of a duration of three to six months.

The major specialisation in the Astronomy Master of Science programme is:

  • Research in Astronomy
    • Instrumentation
    • Cosmology
  • Astronomy and Communication
  • Astronomy and Education
  • Astronomy and Science-Based Business

Qualifications for Admission

Students from a university participating in the NOVA research school with a Bachelor of Science degree in Astronomy will be admitted to the program without further requirements. For all other candidates, including those with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Astronomy from NOVA research school participant, the Admission Committee will judge the equivalence of their previous training to this Bachelor of Science degree. Any choice provided by optional courses in the Master of Science program may be limited by the need to adapt the program to the actual knowledge of the candidate. The admission procedure may include an interview with the Admissions Committee. Foreign applicants must provide proof of proficiency in English.

Master streams in detail

Research in Astronomy

The stream includes a number of advanced astronomy courses chosen from the various courses offered each year. The course in Stellar Evolution is compulsory for all. The Master student also takes some courses outside astronomy and completes two research projects of a different nature supervised by different member of the staff. The student finishes with a Master's thesis. Master students who are admitted without a previously obtained Bachelor of Science degree in Astronomy, follow an adapted program. For instance, the minor research project may be reduced and the number of Astronomy courses may be increased. A selection of courses from the Master curriculum or the courses Stars, Radiative Processes and Galaxies and Cosmology from the Bachelor curriculum may be included. In such cases, the Master student will take these additional courses in the first semester.

In addition, the specialisation offer two more narrowly focussed research streams:

a. The stream Astronomy and Instrumentation enables application-minded students to gain new insights in astronomy by creating advances in instrumentation. A major factor contributing to progress in astronomy is the development of ever more advanced instruments for use on the ground or in space. There is a constant need to improve techniques for higher precision, better sensitivity, and greater spectral coverage. Leiden University and Delft University of Technology collaborate in presenting this unique training program at the crossroads of research and technology. This specialization is offered in collaboration with Delft University of Technology, and details are given at the Instrumentation website

b. The Stream Cosmology targets combines research in astronomy with research in physics. It covers all aspects of modern astrophysical research (observation, interpretation, simulation, and theory), but is expected to appeal especially to more theory-minded students. In offering this program, Leiden Observatory collaborates with the internationally renowned Leiden Institute of Physics. More information at the Cosmology website

More in general, the Master stream Research in Astronomy is the best choice for students aiming for a career in astronomical research.

Astronomy and Communication

The Master of Science stream Astronomy and Communication combines research training in astronomy with one in techniques of communication. The research component consists of a science project in one of the research groups of the Leiden Observatory. It includes a Master's thesis and an oral presentation, as well as courses to be selected in correspondence with the research topic. The communication part of the stream includes the following components: Media basics; Media specials; Designing, reflection and academic training; Training period (internship) in Journalism, Museology or New media.

The Master stream Astronomy and Communication deals with science communication in broad sense. It prepares students for a career in the popularisation of science for example as a science writer, a science policymaker, a public relations officer or for a career as a scientist with a communication mindset.

Astronomy and Education

The stream comprises a one year Astronomy component and a one year education component.

The Astronomy component of the Education stream centers on a research project in one of the research groups of the Leiden Observatory, including a Master's thesis and an oral presentation, as well as courses selected in correspondence with the research topic. This may include non-astronomy courses. The Education component of the stream is offered by the Leiden Graduate School of Education (ICLON) and includes the following courses: Didactics, Professional Functioning, Educational Research and School training.

The Master stream in Astronomy and Education prepares students for a career in Physics teaching. This Master stream is adequate to obtain the so-called 'eerstegraads lesbevoegdheid' needed to employed as a fully qualified teacher at Dutch high schools.

There is a special entry requirement. All applicants must provide proof of proficiency in the Dutch language.

Astronomy and Science-Based Business

The Astronomy component of the stream also centers on a research project in one of the research groups at Leiden Observatory, including a Master's thesis and an oral presentation, as well as courses to be selected in correspondence with the research topic. The choices for courses and research project will be made in concert with the student advisor.

The business-related part of the programme consists of the following components: Science-Based Business Fundamentals; Science-Based Business Internship; Orientation on Technopreneurship; Science-Based Business electives

In order to obtain a Science-Based Business Master qualification, a minimum program consisting of the course Science-Based Business Fundamentals and the Science-Based Business training period must be completed. The course Science-Based Business Fundamentals may also be taken as a specialisation course in the Astronomy Research Master stream.

The Master stream Astronomy and Science-Based Business prepares students for a career in science-related business, administration, innovation and enterprise from an astronomy perspective. In addition to experience in astronomy research, Master students obtain specific competences relevant to organisations, people in organisations, and process establishment and management.

Career prospects

Both graduates with a Master of Science and a Ph.D. degree in Astronomy easily find positions in research institutions or in high-tech industry, software and consultancy companies worldwide, or as a teacher, science communicator, or science policymaker. There is virtually no unemployment under Leiden Observatory graduates.


Low tuition fees apply automatically to students from EU countries (except second Master, more information). Higher tuition fees are required from Non-EU students. However, under certain conditions fee waivers may be granted. If desired, please contact us in advance (masters@strw.leidenuniv.nl).

All students with Dutch citizenship are eligible for fellowship grants through the Dutch government. If you wish to register, please contact us.

Students may also apply for a paid MSc student assistantship in the course of their master studies. Details and requirements may be found here.

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