Keuzegids 2018 Best Masters |


In this article the following studies are discussed

  • Psychology
  • Psychology & health
  • Psychology research master's
  • Neuroscience

Psychology is a wide discipline. Criminal behaviour touches on law, consumer preferences on economics and selection board decisions on HRM. And then there’s the vast world of behavioural disorders and other psychological conditions, with their causes sometimes at the neurological level. A range of master’s courses provide an insight into all of these — and many other — aspects of psychology.

Job market 

When you hear the word ‘psychologist’, you often think of someone who treats people with psychological problems; it’s certainly true that many people obtain a diagnostic certificate or continue studying to become a doctor of psychology. But work can also be found in recruitment, marketing, as a researcher, policy officer or advisor in the field of health, education, traffic or security. Although a relatively high number of graduates work at an academic level, it takes time and effort to find a job, and you often end up working part time. In part as a result of this, you earn somewhat less than the average academic.

The masters

click to view full version
The masters: overview and ratings
Facts Student ratings Expert
Number of students
Course type
Scientific training
Practice-based approach
Assessment and final level
 Maastricht UM Human Decision Science 29 ft en ++ ++ +++ ++ o + +++ + o o 88 +++
Open Universiteit Psychology 546 ft Dutch o + + + o ++ o + o o 72 +
 Tilburg TiU Social Psychology 94 ft en o o + o o + + o o o 66 +
Leiden UL Statistical Science for the Life and Beha.. 51 ft en + + o o + o o o o o 66 +
Enschede UT Psychology 258 ft o o o o o o o + o o 62 o

With very small student numbers, the rating from several years is merged. More information about sources and methods, see (in dutch)

The symbols (+, - and o) show how the programme scores in relation to the national average.
- - - = weakest, - - = weak, - = lower than average, o = average, + = above average, ++ = strong, +++ = strongest. (o- and o+ = see explanation assessment and final level)
The total score and our rating combines all scores. The best programmes get two or three times +.

The wide range of master’s in psychology

For a master’s in general psychology, you can attend ten regular universities. The Open University is also an option, but mostly for Dutch-speaking students. In addition to numerous master’s specialisations, you can also often choose more specific programmes. In Utrecht and Maastricht, for example, you can choose neuroscience as a track, or study for a specialised master’s in neuroscience. Healthcare psychology is a separate programme at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), whereas it is a track in Nijmegen. Furthermore, lots of universities build bridges to other disciplines they offer: forensic psychology touches on law; marketing and consumer behaviour tie in with economics. The University of Twente explicitly brings technology and psychology together.

Industrial and organisational psychology is one of the most common specialisations; this focuses on the behaviour of people in the work environment. You can also follow cognitive, clinical and neuropsychological tracks almost everywhere. This also applies to developmental psychology, which focuses on the life cycle, from birth to old age. 

For students from universities of applied sciences, it is often possible to start a master’s course at a research university via a one-year conversion course. The Dutch-language NCOI course in Applied Psychology is open to graduates from universities of applied science and research universities, but requires several years’ work experience and doesn’t come cheap.

In terms of content, all programmes focus on a core set of methods, techniques and important theories. Furthermore, you build on your knowledge from the bachelor’s course. Often, a research internship is possible or compulsory. Groningen offers the option of studying for an additional year at a German or Russian university. You are awarded two diplomas.

The quality scores for the general psychology courses vary drastically. That’s not due to the experts. They reviewed the programmes and gave their approval without any major objections or praises. One negative point that the courses have in common is the practice-based approach: above all, preparation for the world of work leaves something to be desired.

Human Decision Science in Maastricht is head and shoulders above the rest. In addition to the stimulating teaching, the excellent support by expert lecturers gains the students’ approval. The Open University also scores above average. Students agree that the programme is well-structured and the study load is evenly distributed throughout the year. Social Psychology in Tilburg also performs well in this area, coming out just above average. Students of the Master’s in Statistics at Leiden find the programme inspiring.

The standard degrees in Enschede, Nijmegen, Maastricht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam (UvA) are in the middle of the rankings, receiving few compliments, but hardly any harsh criticism either. Enschede and Maastricht are praised for their teaching rooms and library, while scientific training is rated positively in Rotterdam. Lots of people in Rotterdam grumble about the facilities.

In Utrecht, Amsterdam (VU) and Leiden (Psychology), the students think there’s a problem. The criticism isn’t major, but it relates to many aspects. There’s substantial criticism of the preparation for the world of work in Groningen, but the students there also praise the attention to research and the facilities.

Psychology & health

Lots of psychologists end up in mental healthcare and this is reflected in the range of degrees on offer in this field. With these master’s courses, the focus is on one of the clinical areas: developmental psychology, child and adolescent psychology, neuropsychology, forensic psychology or a general variant. You deepen your knowledge of the causes of psychological problems and learn how to make a diagnosis and bring about an intervention.

In terms of quality, Medical Psychology in Tilburg stands out with an interesting and stimulating programme that offers excellent preparation for the world of work. It only receives some criticism in terms of the facilities. The remaining three programmes are rated considerably more critically: the support is below average and it is difficult to complete the degree without delay. In Maastricht, the students want more attention for methods and Mental Health in Tilburg needs to address the working methods used.

Psychology research master’s

If you really have scientific ambitions, there’s a good number of two-year research master’s in psychology. These are the perfect step towards obtaining a PhD position. The master’s are usually relatively broad, but the titles often indicate where the focus lies. Research and statistical methods and techniques often assume a key role within these master’s. In addition to an internship and/or extensive research, you also work on a substantial thesis.

Most research master’s are above average in terms of quality, and are unanimously rated very highly in terms of scientific training. The students are most positive about the master’s in Nijmegen, with its challenging programme and excellent digital learning environment. The methods master’s in Utrecht also performs well, but could devote more attention to how to write publications. For social health at Utrecht, feasibility is a weakness; for psychopathology at VU University Amsterdam, the programme is lacking. The experts’ favourites are two degrees in Amsterdam: the broad research master’s at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Social Psychology at VU University Amsterdam. At the latter, however, students grumble about the competence of the lecturers.


Utrecht and Maastricht offer one-year master’s programmes in the field of neuroscience. Furthermore, there are a number of two-year research master’s on this hard side of psychology, which looks into the structure of the brain and the processes that take place inside it. You study how neurotransmitters work, measure hormone levels and analyse scans of healthy brains and those damaged by illness or injury. Your coursemates also include biologists and medical students.

Major differences can be noted in terms of quality, but scientific training and learning professional skills are perfectly fine almost everywhere. The experts rate the research master’s highest in Nijmegen and Maastricht. The Cognitive Neuroscience programmes in Maastricht and Groningen are praised by students.

In Nijmegen, students complain about the teaching skills of the lecturers, and the Neuroscience lecturers at VU University Amsterdam cannot be reached sufficiently. Students of Neuropsychology at VU University Amsterdam find that there is insufficient contact with the professional practice and in Rotterdam they speak negatively of everything.

Related masters

  • Pedagogy (university of applied sciences [hbo] or research university [wo])
  • Criminology (research university [wo])
  • HRM (university of applied sciences [hbo] or research university [wo])
  • Social work (university of applied sciences [hbo])
  • Biology & life sciences (research university [wo])
  • Artificial intelligence (research university [wo])

Our advice

It’s not easy to choose a Master’s in psychology, above all due to the jungle of specialisations. Usually, you’ll already have focused on a specific area in your bachelor’s course. There are enough good options, such as Human Decision Science in Maastricht, if the interface with economics interests you. The research master’s in Behavioural Science in Nijmegen and Neuroscience in Maastricht are also highly recommended.

Keuzegids 2018 Best Masters |