Study plan for JMASV-SYSD Joint European Master's Programme in System Dynamics (EMSD), fall 2020

Language of Instruction




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.

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.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the European Master of Science in System Dynamics requires students to have at least a bachelor´s degree in the social sciences, management sciences, natural sciences, or engineering sciences; average grades between A and B, and documented proficiency in English. The language requirements for admission to the programme are: TOEFL: minimum 80 (internet based), IELTS > 6,5 or previous degree in English (copy of degree required). If the student´s first language is English, he/she will not be required to provide an English language test score. The student is considered to be a native speaker of English if he/she is from Australia, Canada, Ireland,New Zealand,Singapore, UK, USA or South Africa, and if English was the language in which the student gained all his/her qualifications.

Sequential Requirements, courses

The master´s programme has two components: a course part (90 ECTS), and a master´s thesis part (30 ECTS). The total work load is 120 ECTS.

Students will study in Bergen during their first semester, in Lisbon or Palermo during their second semester, in Nijmegen the third semester and choose to return to one of these universities for supervision during their thesis work:

Compulsory courses in Bergen (1. semester):

  • Fundamentals of Dynamic Social Systems (10 EC)
  • Model-based Analysis and Policy Design (10 EC)
  • System Dynamics Modelling Process (10 EC)

Compulsory courses in Lisbon (2. semester alternative for students in Lisbon):

  • Sustainability Science (10 EC)
  • Integrative Modelling (10 EC)
  • Sustainability Strategies Lab (10 EC)

Compulsory courses in Palermo (2. semester alternative for students in Palermo):

  • Planning & Control Systems (6 EC)
  • System Dynamics for Business Strategy (9 EC)
  • Planning, Policy Design, and Management in the Public Sector (6 EC)
  • System Dynamics for Planning, Policy Design, and Management in the Public Sector (9 EC)

Compulsory courses in Nijmegen (3. semester)

  • Computer simulation models and organizational decision-making (6 EC)
  • Group Model Building I (6 EC)
  • Decision making and knowledge (6 EC)
  • Group Model Building II (6 EC)
  • Dynamics of business strategy (6 EC)

The two first semesters leave room for optional courses, selected by the student in consultation with his/her mentor to ensure appropriate specialization in either biological oceanography or physical oceanography as well as the interdisciplinary character of the degree.

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

Grading scale

The national grading systems of the partnering institutions are used for the respective courses:

A-F (based on pre-defined criteria), pass/fail


After completing the programme, students are prepared for careers as consultants and as strategic planners in corporations and government agencies. Students are also qualified for more entrepreneurial tasks within their own enterprises or other companies. The programme also prepares students for PhD studies required for a scientific career.