Science Education at UvA-VU: Master’s in Computer Science

14 June 2016

The Master’s degree programme in Computer Science studies the technology-supported, worldwide dissemination of information. ‘This field explores the technology that has permeated every facet of our modern-day, globally connected society,’ says VU Amsterdam computer scientist Thilo Kielmann, director* of the joint UvA-VU Master’s programme in Computer Science.

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Brothers

Up until 2014, VU Amsterdam offered an MSc degree in Computer Science, while across town the University of Amsterdam (UvA) offered an MSc in Computational Science. ‘Like brothers,’ Kielmann says. ‘However, unlike with other programmes, we decided not to merge them. Instead, VU Amsterdam’s Computer Science programme was complemented with UvA lecturers, and vice versa for Computational Science.’

Education mirrors research

Students enrolled in the Computer Science programme can choose from six different specialised Master’s tracks. That makes it unique in the Netherlands, and among the best in the world, according to Kielmann. This year, the programme’s curriculum has been extensively modernised with the knowledge and experience the teaching team built up since 2014. Kielmann explains: ‘These tracks are a direct translation of the main focus areas of Computer Science research in Amsterdam.’ Such as Big Data Engineering, a new track shaped around research being done within Amsterdam Data Science, the large network organisation of which both VU and the UvA are members.

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Studying in the robot lab

Additional fields of research

However, as Kielmann points out, there is almost no overlap between the two universities’ respective lines of research. ‘That is the result of an intentional policy of which we are now reaping the rewards.’ Whereas UvA researchers are working on parallel programming, cloud-based systems and performance engineering, for instance, efforts at VU are focused on topics such as computer system security, green IT and internet technology. This wide spectrum of research is not the only benefit, Kielmann notes. ‘Research collaboration creates added value; it is a one-plus-one-equals-three equation.’

Kielmann is excited about the launch of the joint MSc curriculum with his counterparts at the UvA. ‘Computer Science has always pioneered collaboration, and there has always been a good chemistry with each other, so we are already accustomed to working together. Now we have even got courses that are jointly taught by VU and UvA lecturer pairs, forged purely on the basis of content.’

Benefits of a joint degree

Students are also enthusiastic about the broad scope of the Master’s curriculum, practical details like two student information systems notwithstanding, according to Kielmann. From September, Computer Science will be going forward as a joint degree. ‘Basically, you have got the combined force of two universities behind one diploma,’ says Kielmann, ‘and that is something students certainly appreciate.’

*Thilo Kielmann has recently been appointed as educational director of the VU Faculty of Sciences. This summer a new programme director of the MSc Computer Science will be appointed.

Text: Jeroen Scharroo

Published by  Faculty of Science