Master of Science in Sociology



Course content:

Do you want to understand how society works, and are you motivated to strengthen your research skills, gain international experience and develop intercultural expertise? If you have answered yes to these questions, this program is exactly what you are looking for!

The Master of Science in Sociology is a new and innovative English-taught program at Ghent University, centred around three pillars: applied research, internationalisation and an advanced scientific approach to contemporary societal problems.

What are the social conditions that constitute the fundamental causes of health and illness? How can higher education institutions become more accessible? Why have so many young Muslims joined Islamic State the past couple of years? How are power and responsibilities formally and informally distributed within organisations? This program addresses these and other contemporary social problems. Students gain a strong scientific approach that allows them to critically address such topics.

This one-year master program is highly research based. Students gain a thorough understanding of advanced quantitative research methods, and are challenged to apply these skills to answer sociological questions. Students write a master thesis and opt for an international internship or follow advanced policy-oriented applied courses.

Course structure:

The Master of Science in Sociology focusses on three main parts: 1. a solid, general formation in advanced sociological topics (general courses), 2. an applied major in which practical skills are developed (Internship, Policy and Management, Skills Lab and Conflict and Development in a Global World) and 3. a research based master dissertation.

Students can choose between three majors: International Internship, Policy and Management or Skills Lab. Students design their own trajectory based on their personal interest, future career prospects and ambitions.

The first semester of the programme is fully dedicated to the core mandatory advanced sociological courses. From the start students begin preparing for their master dissertation or internship. This program is a one-year programme with a high pace but is feasible thanks to the gradual planning. By the end of the first semester, students should have taken all exams and can fully concentrate on their major and master dissertation. At the end of the second semester the course Social Dynamics of Policy and Organization helps to digest the experiences developed during the thesis research, the internship and the other courses.

Career perspectives:

Recent research among alumni shows that sociology graduates are highly appreciated by employers for their combination of thorough insights in society, research expertise, communication and project management skills. Sociology graduates from Ghent University start an academic career (as PhD students or research fellows) or work in NGO’s, governmental organisations (on themes such as health prevention, radicalisation) and research agencies (such as market research). Our alumni value the program for the acquired analytical skills and are very satisfied with their job content and wage.

The Ghent University master program in sociology offers insights in societal phenomena and learns how to study and research sociological problems. The program prepares you to begin to work on scientific projects in academia, governmental organisations or research institutes. Ghent University Masters in Sociology are ready to research social phenomena as social inequality, gender differences, quality of labour, democratisation of higher education, migration or health and risk behaviour. Our program helps students on their path towards future careers as policy advisors or project managers, in fields as diverse as human resources, journalism or education.


Study Programme

Course catalogue

1. General courses

The program departs from a core set of mandatory advanced sociological courses on health sociology, migration, education, policy and organisation and quantitative analysis, that will unravel the secrets of multilevel analysis.

Sociology of Health and Illness

This educational component imparts insight into the social conditions that constitute the social causes of health and illness; knowledge of the main explanations of the relation between social organization and health or illness; knowledge of some aspects of the formal and informal institutionalized health care services. Students are introduced to a number of important concepts, theories and findings from the sociology of health and illness. Light is shed on the specificity of the sociological perspective. We study social processes as fundamental causes of health and illness and pay special attention to the sociology of mental health and subjective well-being. The sociology of health and illness and medical sociology, the pan-historical and cross-cultural spread of health and illness, social class, social inequality and health, gender and health and illness, end-of-life, the sociology of mental health, the social stress model, stigma and discrimination, medicalization and healthism, alternative and complementary medicine, migration and mental health are addressed.

Migration and Integration

This course starts with an introductory overview of the history, determinants and types of migration, from an international perspective. In the next section, we discuss the classic theories of integration (e.g. assimilation theory, segmented assimilation theory, ethnic enclave theory and ethnic boundaries theory). The following questions are central to this section: What are the possible outcomes of integration in a society? To which extent are these outcomes dependent on the type of migration and the sociological context of the society? Afterwards, we apply these questions to several topics, such as: marriage patterns of ethnic minorities, ethnic residential segregation, socio-economic positions of ethnic minorities, interethnic relations and discrimination, religious practices, social cohesion in a super-diverse society. At the end, we consider the different strategies policy makers can follow to deal with migration and integration. This course offers an overview of all relevant theories of migration and integration, and stimulates the application onto current-day topics. We use the following methods: interactive exercises, discussions in small groups, student debates and flipped-classroom methods.

Higher education

This unit introduces the students to key themes and challenges in contemporary higher education and higher education research. Different themes will be explored using different social science perspectives, primarily sociology and political sciences. The unit prepares students to develop evidence-based recommendations for policy and practice. Higher education continues to play a key role in society, given its functions regarding the education of the next generation of knowledge workers and critical citizens and regarding the creation and dissemination of new knowledge through research and innovation. Despite its legitimate role in society, there are many controversies. Who should have access to higher education? Should higher education institutions be public?

Who should judge the quality of higher education? How much autonomy should be granted to higher education institutions and academics? The following themes will be addressed: history of higher education, comparative perspectives on higher education systems, higher education policy, higher education institutions as organisations, inequalities and stratification, access and selection, international mobility, quality assurance, funding and institutional governance. These themes will be linked to important sociological themes like participation, gender and (in)equality.

Advanced Quantitative Analysis

In the first three weeks of the course we repeat, integrate and practice general multivariate analysis techniques using sociologically relevant datasets and rehearse data management procedures, both in SPSS and R. The core of the course consists of an initiation in multilevel modelling. Starting from sociologically relevant theories and research questions, the basic random intercept multilevel model is thoroughly studied and extended to fully random models and (cross-level) interactions, both for linear and logistic regression models. As software MLwiN and R is used. Next to general classes and hands-on computer classes, students independently write two analysis reports, one on general multivariate techniques and one using multilevel techniques. The final two weeks consist of an introduction to other advanced techniques, such as Structural Equations Modelling (SEM) and non-parametric techniques.

Social Dynamics of Policy and Organization

The general aim of this unit is to familiarise students with the functioning of organisations. Organisations have a structure, a culture, means, processes, individual members or employees. Organisations communicate and function on the basis of formal and informal processes and consist of formal and informal groups, with formally and informally assigned power and responsibilities. Conflict and power are essential drivers of organisations. These basic sociological concepts should be actively approached in policy development and implementation. Sociology and social sciences have developed multiple theoretical frameworks and techniques to analyse society and organisations, to reduce their complexity and develop insights. For organisations to have a future, they should pay close attention to present-day complexity and myriad challenges and models. In this unit, bridges are built between sociological approaches, policy preparation and policy implementation in and for organisations. A dynamic approach is put forward with attention to practice and policy themes in the master dissertation. This unit consists of a combination of lectures and active seminars.

2. Majors

Students can choose between three majors: International Internship, Policy and Management, Skills Lab or Conflict and Development in a Global World. Students design their own trajectory based on their personal interest, future career prospects and ambitions.

Option 1: International Internship

The global volunteer program of AIESEC provides students with the opportunity to develop and experience a shared responsibility for the world and equip them with the tools to shape a better future. Through an AIESEC internship, students become part of an international pool of future talent. Projects generally deal with sustainable development goals. If you want to volunteer with elders for reduced inequality in Portugal, promote children’s empowerment through education in Brazil, conserve biodiversity in Sri Lanka or teach orphans in Nigeria, this is your major. The internship takes about 6 weeks. The costs are about 265 euro. This includes accommodation, one meal a day and guidance. Transportation is excluded.

Option 2: Policy and Management

Course specific to this major:

  • Operational Human Resource Management
    In operational HRM we want to provide students with an experiential approach to the study of HRM while focusing on the enhancement of student competencies in applying High Performance Work Practices. This course is offered in the second semester and builds further on the competencies in the course 'Human Resource Management in Public Organizations'.

Option 3: Skills lab

Courses specific to this major:

  • Dare to Venture
    The student learns to collect feedback on a business idea and to structure this feedback into a first draft of a business model. The student team starts from a business idea that will be confronted with the environment, e.g. distributors, potential customer groups and users, suppliers, designers, producers or regulators.
  • Business Skills
    This course emphasizes critical management skills that yield sound organizational results. Based on theory and empirical evidence, the course treats leadership competencies that are essential for employee engagement, effective communication, and sustainable organizational success. This is a crucial demand in the turbulent environments of organizations nowadays, but it requires leaders to leave their comfort zones and to expand their mental models of effectiveness.
  • Advanced Academic English
    The overall objective of the course is to improve the students’ English language skills in an academic context. Focus is on writing and speaking skills. (academic writing, reporting, giving and attending a presentation, communicating with colleagues and with scholars from different fields of study).

A number of optional courses can be chosen in both majors.

Management-oriented courses

  • Change Management
    In this course, students develop insights in the broader processes of public sector reform, and the implications for public policy and management, as well as into theoretical paradigms in relation to change management, with a focus on public management.
  • Human Resource Management in Public Organisations
    Human Resource Management is viewed as a strategic and result oriented approach of the workforce, based on a managerial logic of high performances. An integrative approach is used to make students familiar with theoretical and conceptual insights in Human Resource Management, based on a four dimensional model of HRM. The focus lays on the implementation of Human Resource Management in public and social profit organizations
  • Comparative public administration and management
    This course looks at the public administration, the organization of government, and the management of public organizations, in an internationally (European) comparative perspective. The focus is on the understanding and comparing of administrative structures and systems, and of reform processes in government at different levels (central and local government).

Policy-oriented courses

  • Globalisation and Global Governance
    This educational component examines ‘global governance’ or the political management of global problems. Ample attention will be paid to the historical context, the relation between politics and economics as a general background to the issues of global governance and related policy, as well as to the ideological component.
  • The European Union’s International Development Policy
    This specialised course addresses international and European development policies. The course conveys to students a profound knowledge of and a critical attitude towards development cooperation and the EU’s role and involvement as an international development actor.
  • Human Rights in Developing Countries
    This course provides a solid understanding of the history of human rights, the kinds of human rights, the sources of human rights, the general principles, the supervision of and the dynamics of human rights protection in international law at the universal and the regional levels, and, in a complementary way, also in domestic law of some developing countries; along with a solid understanding of and a critical view on a number of central human rights topics.

Option 4: Conflict and Development in a Global World

  • Postcolonial Studies

Drawing upon readings, film screenings, class discussions guest lectures, and fieldtrips, this seminar studies the ways colonialism invariably materializes as dispossession through economic, political, social and cultural processes in both the Global South and the Global North. This course is divided into three parts and begins by engaging key theoretical approaches to colonialism, including feminist, Indigenous, antiracist, and political economic approaches. Next, a range of sites of colonial and imperial formation is considered, including land, territory, nature, the body, sexuality, race, and gender. The third part of the course focuses on forms of resistance, resurgence, and decolonization, as well as emerging scholarship that both questions the limits of past approaches to the study of colonialism and aims to conceptualize imperial, colonial, capitalist and decolonizing processes in new ways.

  • Gender and Globalization

This course provides insight in globalisation as a gendered phenomenon, with special attention to the issues of development and conflict in the Global South. This is an interdisciplinary course that connects gender studies with global studies and conflict and development studies, and combines insights from political sciences, economics, sociology and anthropology. It thus offers the analytical, theoretical and methodological frameworks necessary for a gender analysis of globalisation, development and conflict.

  • Political Ecology

This course offers an in-depth exploration of the field of political ecology related to issues of conflict and development. Political ecology focusses on how society-environmental relations cannot be seen as something a-political, and focusses on how political structures and power dynamics influence processes of environmental change, protection and knowledge. By exploring conflict and (post)development from a political ecology perspective entails that these issues cannot be separated from the environment, socio-environmental landscapes and nature in where they occur.

  • Sustainable Development

This course aims to impart to students an insight into the complexity of implementing the concept of sustainable development, in terms both of content and of policy. In the first section of the course, the history and the conceptual framework of sustainable development is briefly addressed. Next, the international agreements emerging from the UN Conference in Rio de Janeiro (1992) constitute an important starting point from which the developments of the past decades are outlined, on the basis of, among other things, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change/Kyoto Protocol and other UN conventions and conferences. Furthermore, the results of the so-called Rio+20 conference to make up a state of play are discussed. Finally, a state of affairs is presented concerning the implementation at the different levels of policy: the European, Belgian, federal and Flemish strategy with respect to sustainable development. During the first part students are asked to present a team work related to one particular issue. The second section of the course is a 'status questionis' of the way in which the concept is operationalized. Central to this elaboration are the mutual relations between the different dimensions of sustainable development. In this second section of the course, the lectures will be alternated with workshops presupposing active participation by the students.

  • Rural Sociology

This course tackles a range of processes of agrarian transformation in the recent past, with a specific focus on the Global South. This will be done using a historical-sociological framework and with a specific focus on dynamics of class formation/differentiation, capitalization of the rural sector... Lastly, considerable attention will be paid to the emergence of resistance following crucial transformations in the rural economy. The course will hereby provide a couple of introductory classes wherein a general theoretical framework will be presented about agrarian transformation, class formation and differentiation and capitalization of the rural economy. After this introductory part, a range of current debates will be highlighted, including: contract farming, land grabbing, transnational peasant movements and debates about small-scale farming.

  • Politics of Islam

This course provides students both theoretical understanding and methodological knowledge about the contemporary political, social and cultural manifestations of Islam in our global world. At a theoretical level, the course aims at providing knowledge and insight into the ways in which Muslim/Islamic mobilization arise. This course aims to provide students with an introduction to the major intellectual and ideological debates, political and social movements as well as cultural trends at the intersection of politics and Islam. The course will offer the opportunity to discover the diversity of modern and current Islamic political, social and cultural manifestations and, in doing so, help them to understand in a more nuanced and informed manner some of the pressing issues of our times.

  • Transnationalism and Migration

The objective of this seminar is to offer a framework of analysis to enhance master students’ understanding the dynamics of migration and transnationalism and their relation to conflict and development. The course will combine a limited number of introduction lectures, with seminars wherein students work out a problem or a case under the supervision of the lecturer, by means of joint exercises (including discourse analysis of policy documents), individual and collective assignments and joint, student-led discussions in (sub)groups.

3. Master dissertation

Making a master dissertation is performing your own quantitative or qualitative research, and writing it up in a scientific paper. The master dissertation is supervised by a Ghent University professor. It can be done in combination with your internship for instance through interviews of respondents during your stay abroad.

For all useful information, please consult the Master's Dissertation regulations at:

Dissertation seminar

The master’s dissertation seminar consists of small-group sessions in which students discuss methodological and other aspects of their ongoing research. Through these interactive, ‘hands on’ sessions, students enhance their research skills. The core consists of a number of interactive workshops. Each of them engage with a number of themes, such as formulating a research question in relation to contemporary scholarly consensus or debate, methods and/or methodology, operationalization, analysis and reporting and presenting data or findings.



Entry requirements

You are eligible for this program if you hold a relevant Bachelor degree. This includes bachelors in sociology or a solid background in social sciences, including social science methodology.

Students holding a Flemish degree:

  • All students who hold a Bachelor of Social Science (VUB-UGhent) are directly admitted
  • All students who hold a bachelor degree in Sociology

International degree students:

  • Students who hold a Bachelor of Social Science (or equivalent) from a non-Belgian University, are admitted based on an evaluation of the content of their previous studies

Preparatory Course Master of Science in Sociology

Information on the Preparatory Course can be found here: Students can apply for exemptions on a case-by-case basis. In case there is no match, students can take a preparatory year. Most lectures are organised on the campus in Brussels. See

Research skills

Both qualitative and quantitative research skills are highly recommended. Students should have successfully taken a course in multivariate analysis (around 12 ECTS) or have gathered the competences, intended in the mandatory course on Advanced Quantitative Analysis, in some other way. Thorough knowledge and skills are expected concerning:

  • descriptive univariate and bivariate analysis (frequencies, crosstabs, measures of position, dispersion, association, correlation and regression analysis)
  • inferential statistics (significance tests and confidence intervals)
  • t-tests and analysis of variance (ANOVA)
  • multiple regression analysis
  • logistic regression analysis
  • factor analysis

Language requirements

Ghent University requires a good knowledge of English (CEF B2-level or higher) in order to communicate and function in an academic context. Therefore all incoming exchange students are required to submit a language certificate which shows that they have acquired a B2-level in English.

You can submit one of the following documents:

  • A TOEFL certificate: minimum score 510-559 (paper-based) or 87-109 (internet-based)
  • An IELTS certificate: minimum score 6.0
  • A TOEIC certificate: minimum score 785-944
  • A Cambridge certificate: FCE, CAE or CPE
  • A certificate of a university language centre: minimum level B2
  • A proof that you are a native speaker of English this can be a copy of your identity card/passport)
  • A proof that you successfully finished a study programme of at least one year which was completely taught in English

Students with a degree from a Flemish secondary school are exempted.

For more information about the language requirements please contact the admission office of UGent

Ghent University provides preparatory courses in English. For more information visit




International degree students:

  • Students who require a visa have to submit their application dossier (hard copies) before the first of March.
  • Students who do not require a visa have to submit their application dossier (hard copies) before the first of June.

Students holding a Flemish degree:

  • No fixed deadlines apply. After the 15th of November (of the year in which the master program is started) they can no longer take up 1st semester courses.
  • Late applications should be solicited with the Faculty from the 1st of October. After the first of March they can no longer enrol for the ongoing academic year.

Tuition fees

All information can be found via this link:

Next steps: application procedure

Students can apply through

What to do after receiving a letter of acceptance?

More information and opening hours of the Registrar’s Office

Who to contact?


What do alumni say about our program?

A versatile training program in which the development of a critical mind-set is key.

Strong, in-depth courses, taught by motivated professors with ample expertise in their field.

Good variety of seminars, practical teaching methods and theoretical lectures.

I appreciated the advanced statistical insights and the broad spectrum of topics like health, education, culture, citizenship and development.


This publication provides guidance to prospects, applicants and students. Ghent University reserves the right to make changes to the information contained in this publication—including correcting errors, altering fees, schedules of admission, and admission requirements, and revising or cancelling particular courses or programs—without prior notice.