Study programme

The courses below are for cohort 2024 onward. If you are already a student at UU and are looking for information about cohort 2023 or earlier, please check our student website. 

Earth Surface and Water is a two-year Master’s programme taught in English that includes taught courses and individual research project awarding a total of 120 points in the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). On this page you will find information concerning the curriculum, courses, educational methods, examinations and extracurricular opportunities.


The first year is devoted to course work, while the second year is primarily spent conducting independent research and/or a traineeship. The programme offers considerable scope to design your own personal ‘Master’s plan’ matching your interests and competences.


Tracks are recommended, coherent combinations of courses from the programme. They are meant to help you design your own curriculum based on your preferred specialization within the Earth Surface and Water programme. The four tracks are:

  • Environmental Geochemistry
    Processes that control the functioning of natural environments at the Earth's surface
  • Hydrology
    Movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth
  • Coastal Dynamics and Fluvial Systems
    Natural and human-induces processes, patterns, and products in the world's coasts and rivers
  • Geohazards and Earth Observation
    Land-degradation processes and natural hazards in and on the Earth's surface
Read more about tracks


Below is an overview of the courses you can take in your first year

You can also choose a maximum of two courses from the elective courses Earth Sciences to achieve a total of eight courses (60 EC) in your first year.

Final research project

  • Master's thesis 
    In your second year you must carry out a final research project. Your research will culminate in a Master's thesis, on which you will also give an oral presentation.
  • Guided research /Internship 
    During your guided research/internship you will write at least two and maybe three academic papers: your thesis and a report on the guided research project and/or a report on your internship.

Educational Methods

  • Lectures
  • Studying text books and papers
  • Computer labs with statistics, spatiotemporal simulations, machine learning, remote sensing
  • Fieldwork
  • Laboratory experiments with flumes and chemistry
  • Excursions


  • Final research papers
  • Short papers or written exams
  • In-class presentations
  • Active participation and concluding reports
  • Thesis

Extra opportunities

Utrecht University offers several honours programmes for students looking for an extra challenge. Honours education is followed on top of your regular Master’s programme and goes beyond the regular curriculum. Honours programmes are available at interdisciplinary level and allow you to go deeper into subjects or work on projects that transcend your own discipline.

Read more about the honours programmes