Joint European Master's Programme in System Dynamics (EMSD)

  • Years2 years
  • ECTS credits120


The Degree

Successful completion of the master´s programme leads to a Master of Philosophy in System Dynamics. The programme lasts four semesters (120 ECTS).

Objectives and content

The aim of the Joint European Master´s Programme in System Dynamics is to train students in model-based knowledge acquisition, analysis and policy design in complex, dynamic domains that cut across disciplines and sectors. The students will learn theory, methods, techniques and tools of relevance to this kind of work. The programme will prepare them for a professional career in societies where such competence is needed. The programme is a two-year, full-time master´s study (120 ECTS) offered jointly by Radboud University in the Netherlands (co-ordinator), the New University of Lisbon in Portugal, the University of Palermo in Italy, and the University of Bergen. Successful completion of the programme leads to a joint degree which is fully recognized at all the partner universities. The degree is certified by one diploma issued jointly by all the partners.

Programme profile

The European Master´s Programme in System Dynamics trains students in model-based knowledge acquisition, analysis and policy design in complex, dynamic domains that cut across disciplines and sectors. The students will learn theory, methods, techniques and tools of relevance to this kind of work. The programme will prepare them for a professional career in societies where such competence is needed.


The system dynamics method is the subject of study and is also used as a vehicle for teaching throughout this programme. Its theoretical foundation is being presented as well as techniques and software tools. Students learn to apply the principles of system dynamics modelling and to use computer-based tools for simulation and interactive learning environments.

Master thesis

Students write a thesis during the fourth semester. The thesis is a research project where system dynamics modelling and simulation are applied as a basis for systems analysis (identification of the origin of a dynamic problem) and policy design (including impact and feasibility analysis) aiming at a sustainable problem solution. The work will typically be comprehensive, interdisciplinary and / or intersectorial. Before choosing thesis topics, students are expected to consult with and gain approval from supervisors. Joint supervision (minimum of two supervisors from partner institutions) will ensure the disciplinary and interdisciplinary support and follow-up to the project.




Further studies

The degree provides competence for further studies on a PhD level in system dynamics or in social sciences (incl. management).

What you Learn

Required Learning Outcomes

Express knowledge and understanding

Candidates should be able to (1) summarize the inherent challenges in understanding the dynamics of social systems; (2) explain the system dynamics paradigm and compare it with alternative methods of modelling complex feedback systems; (3) provide examples of system dynamics applications to problems in both public and private sectors; (4) explain in stock/flow/feedback terms how the fundamental structures of dynamic systems produce their associated behaviours; (5) interpret characteristic behaviours emerging from specific combinations of fundamental structures, with emphasis on the role of delays, nonlinearities, and feedback; (6) describe in detail the system dynamics modelling process, from problem definition to policy design; (7) demonstrate proficiency with the equation, simulation, and presentation tools of at least one system dynamics software package, while having some familiarity with at least two others.

Apply knowledge and understanding

Candidates should be able to (1) transfer and adapt knowledge about certain fundamental models from one problematic situation to another that displays similar fundamental behaviour; (2) translate a stock-and-flow model into a causal loop diagram, and explain; (3) translate a narrative theory of a dynamic process involving delays and feedback into causal loop and stock-and-flow representations of that theory, and explain; (4) define the dynamics of a problem; (5) formulate hypotheses (in words, diagrams, and a set of model equations) as tentative explanations of problematic dynamic behaviour; (6) analyse a model´s structure to discover the endogenous source of particular dynamic patterns; (7) analyse and test a model to improve its reliability and usefulness; (8) test a model´s sensitivity to parameter assumptions; (9) identify and evaluate potential leverage points for improving model behaviour through policy parameter analysis; (10) conduct policy design and evaluation with modifications in the structure of an explanatory model; (11) develop and analyze a simulation model that provides a useful explanation of a given problematic behaviour in a narrowly-defined task; and (12) identify a real-world dynamic problem and conduct a 6-week empirical and theoretical investigation, culminating in an explanatory model, a policy model, a written report, and an oral presentation.

Make judgments

Candidates should be able to (1) to compare the benefits and limitations of simple analogies; (2) adopt a client´s perspective to assess the definition of a problem, the boundary of a model, and the model´s reliability and usefulness; (3) establish and evaluate criteria for evaluating how well a model structure contributes to the explanation of an observed or hypothesised dynamic behaviour; (4) assess data requirements in light of a model´s sensitivity to parameter estimates; (5) assess whether simulated policy options are feasible in the real world; and (6) take ethical considerations into account when conducting research and developing models, and when interacting with clients, stakeholders, and colleagues.


Candidates should be able to (1) ask and answer questions and engage in discussion and debate in a classroom setting; (2) organize a written discussion of a modelling project in a way that highlights the research problem or question, the hypothesis, the method of analyzing and testing the hypothesis, and the policy implications of the investigation; (3) make oral presentations of their work; (4) design and present models in a way that facilitates communication and understanding; and (5) translate technical information into language that clients understand.

Develop learning skills

Candidates should be able to (1) conduct research and engage in other projects with a high degree of independence, responsibility, and reliability; (2) function as a constructive member of a team; (3) access and interpret relevant scientific and policy literature; and (4) write and speak effectively about their work and relevant issues.

Study Period Abroad

Study period abroad

Mobility between the partner universities is an essential part of the master´s programme and integrated in the curriculum. 60 ECTS total from the partner institutions other than the University of Bergen is in general required. The first semester is spent in Bergen, the second and third at either of the partner universities. The fourth semester (master´s thesis) is spent at any of the four partner institutions. The one semester of the master´s thesis work takes place at one of the partner institutes

Programme structure

Joint European Master's Programme in System Dynamics (EMSD) (krav 30 SP)
Obligatory courses (krav 30 SP)
Mandatory course
Course codeCourse titleSPSR
GEO-SD302Fundamentals of Dynamic Social Systems101
GEO-SD303Model-based Analysis and Policy Design101
GEO-SD304System Dynamics Modelling Process101
SP = ECTS credits, S = Semester, R = Recommended semester

More information

About the programme

See full study plan


Department of Geography

The Management School, Radbout University, Nijmegen, Netherlands, is the coordinating institute for the programme. The programme activities in Bergen take place at the Department of Geography, System Dynamics Group.

Administrative coordinator in Bergen and contact person: Student advisor: studieveileder@geog.uib.no