Human Geography is about people, space and place; it studies the relationship between human activities and their spatial environment. Because it is an integrative discipline, Human Geography serves as an excellent platform for integrating knowledge from various related disciplines, such as Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, Economics etc.

Geographers work as university teachers, researchers, local policy makers, housing corporation workers, journalists, international organization administrators, etc.

The field of Geosciences is very broad and diverse. It has a social science component (the human geography and planning side) as well as a natural science component (the earth sciences side). In addition, Environmental Studies are part of the field; this field of studies itself has a natural sciences side and a policy oriented, social sciences side.

Partly because the University College Utrecht curriculum does not offer many courses in the field of Geosciences itself (you should take as many of these as you can on your side of the ‘divide’), you may have to go ‘shopping’ elsewhere to be optimally prepared. Consider taking an off-campus course in the field; if you go on exchange, select one or more courses in geosciences while you are abroad. Choose an appropriate topic for your 15 ECTS Bachelor thesis which should deal with a topic that is relevant for your choice of Master's specialisation.

Given the limited range of courses at University College Utrecht in the field of Geosciences itself you should take the type of courses in other disciplines that will give you an extra argument in your application. That would apply to courses in the fields that are supplementary in the Bachelor programs. Check these BA and BSc programs to see which ones are required for the particular specialisations. For Human Geography master programs that would apply to research methods and statistical analysis, but a choice of Economics, Sociology or Anthropology would be useful as well, depending on the type of specialisation you aim for. Political Science courses would also be an option since Geosciences often have a strong policy orientation. To prepare yourself, look at the requirements as specified for the different Master's programmes. Several have a pre-Master's programme, often for students with a Bachelor diploma from a University of Applied Sciences (Polytechnic or HBO) and the courses offered in such programmes will show the requirements/expectations of the Master's programmes. These offered courses may be very useful to fill a gap in your preparations.

The Graduate School of Geosciences at Utrecht University offers a large choice of Master's programmes (e.g. Human Geography, International Development Studies, Innovation Sciences, Sustainable Development). These programmes cover the traditional broad field of Geosciences, all taught in English. Many of these programmes require a single year (60 ECTS), often divided between 4 or 5 course modules during one semester and a thesis/internship during the remainder. The Research Master in Urban and Economic Geography and the Sustainable Development programme require both two years of study (120 ECTS). A rather technical programme offered in the Graduate School of Geosciences is the (full-time or part-time) Geographical Information Management and Applications (GIMA), a two-year 120 ECTS programme in various forms of geo information management. This programme is partly distance learning, partly classroom based. Find more details on the Geo master's programs offered at the Utrecht University.

There are some alternatives at other Dutch universities. There are Geosciences faculties – albeit not quite as complete as at the Utrecht University – in Amsterdam (Human Geography and Planning at the University of Amsterdam, including good programs now in Urban Studies; and the Earth and Environmental sciences side at the Free University), in Groningen (also interesting if you want to specialize in the field of Demography) and Nijmegen (Political Geography, specifically Border Studies).

Of course, the number of programmes at universities abroad is limitless, certainly if the wider field of Geosciences is considered. From the perspective of the Geography track at University College Utrecht, the following universities offer interesting programmes and have admitted several of our graduates: the very extensive geography programme at Kings College in London, various Master's programmes at the London School of Economics, and the programme in Development Studies at University College London. Also (Urban) Studies programmes at several other British universities have a good reputation and have accepted University College Utrecht graduates. In Italy some of our alumni have been admitted to the Policy Studies programme of the Johns Hopkins Bologna center – taught in combination with their school in Washington DC. The Polytechnic University of Milan offers an interesting Urban Studies programme that some of our alumni have been enrolled in.

100-level course

UCSSCGEO11: Introduction to Human Geography
How to read, understand and explain the geographic landscape around us (day-to-day environments as well as major global forces). Globalization/ world economy,  the role of the nation state, urban inequality, spatial segregation, gentrification, effects of tourism. 

200-level courses

UCSSCGEO21: Urban Geography: The Restructuring of Cities
The course explores and identifies socio-spatial developments in western cities, in particular those that are related to economic restructuring. The key geographical concept is the ‘urban landscape’, reflecting both the historical evolution and current developments of a wide range of social-cultural phenomena. ‘Reading’ that cityscape (observing, and interpreting) is a good starting point for the analysis of the changing urban society. 

UCSSCGEO22: Development Studies: The Diversity of Development
 Current interpretations of development processes and patterns in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Taking into account the many social, economic, cultural, political and institutional dimensions of development, the approach will be strongly oriented towards the dimensions of space and place (varying levels of geographical scale and in different spatial contexts).

300-level courses

UCSSCGEO32: Globalization and Regional Development
Unravels the phenomenon of globalization and unpacks the discourses of the major schools of thought; multidisciplinary course that deepens students’ understanding of the multi-facetted process of globalization, the academic debate surrounding the phenomenon, and its impacts in various regions of the world and various social and cultural domains.

UCSSCGEO33: European Integration
The course explores the ongoing European integration and investigates the role of EU policies in the economic, political, cultural transformation of contemporary Europe. Territories and borders, security and threat, labor mobility, immigration, social cohesion and external relations.

UCSSCGEO35: Geographical Field Course
The course combines theoretical approaches with urban practices and fieldwork. It relies on observing the ‘landscape’ and interpreting it through a confrontation of observed features with other data sources. You can read more about the field course on the China Studies track page, where you can also find a video impression and download a brochure.

Bachelor theses in Geography

A BA thesis in the field of geography may deal with any of a wide array of topics, reflecting the multitude of questions human geographers try to answer. Contact the fellow/ track coordinator to help you with the first thought and writings for your research proposal and to find a supervisor. 

Geography UCSSGEO Fall Spring Prerequisites
11 Introduction to Human Geography 2 1 None
21 Urban Geography: The restructuring of cities   1 SSCGEO11
22 Development Studies: The Diversity of Development 1   SSCGEO11
32 Globalization and Regional Development 1   One of courses: 
33 Geography of European Integration   1 One of courses: 
35 Geographical field course     SSCGEO21 OR SSCGEO22

Geography Fellow

Dr Gery Nijenhuis studied Development Geography and obtained her PhD at Utrecht University (2002). Her main research focus and publications are in the field of development cooperation, migrant's transnationality, local governance and participatory approaches, with a regional focus on Africa and Latin America. 


Dr Irina van Aalst studied Human Geography and completed her PhD in Human Geography and Urban Planning at Utrecht University (1997). Irina's research can be positioned at the intersection of urban, cultural and economic geography. She publishes on urban dynamics and culture, public spaces, creative industries, surveillance and nightlife, and the city of New York.

Dr Leo van Grunsven studied Human Geography and obtained his PhD at Utrecht University. Main areas of research and publications are about: economic geography, industrial transition, China, Southeast Asian countries.

Dr Kei Otsuki is a sociologist specialized in sustainability and community development issues in Latin America and Africa as well as in Japan. She holds a PhD in development sociology from Wageningen University and MSc and BA degrees from the University of Tokyo. Her research interests center on equitable and sustainable development, inclusive governance and dynamic social change.

Dr Leo Paul is a human geographer. He obtained his PhD at Utrecht University. His main focus in teaching and writing is regional development in Central and Eastern Europe.

Dr Martijn Smit obtained his PhD in Economics at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. His research focuses on the geography and economics of regional development, labour markets, agglomeration, processes of innovation and innovation diffusion, peripheries, and EU regional policy.

Dr Krisztina Varró holds a PhD in Human Geography. Her research expertise and interests span the following interrelated themes: 1) urban and regional development and governance in Europe; 2) uneven development and shifts in regional policy at the national and EU scale; 3) the (im)mobility of policy concepts and planning imaginaries, and their selective institutionalization ‘at’ the city-regional level in particular.

Contact person

Dr Gery Nijenhuis is the fellow for Geography at University College Utrecht. Office: Vening Meinesz A, Room 6.10, Princetonlaan 8A, 3584 CB Utrecht.