Study plan for MASV-SYSDY System Dynamics, Master's, 2 years, fall 2020

Name of qualification

The master's programme leads to the degree Master of Philosophy in System Dynamics.

ECTS Credits

120 ECTS (2 years)

Language of Instruction

All courses are taught in English.



Objectives and content

The master´s degree in system dynamics signifies an ability to analyze how and why things change over time. System dynamics builds on the best traditions in science for studying complex dynamic systems to understand how systems´ dynamics originate from the underlying systems´ structure, to investigate how pressing current problems reflect past policies and design alternative policies that may be alleviate these problems. To do so, candidates are trained to develop simulation models that represent the cause-and-effect structure of the systems studied, to derive their dynamics by way of simulation, and to investigate the relationship between the two. This combination of skills encourages collaboration and teamwork in daily decision-making as well as long-range planning.

Required Learning Outcomes

A candidate who has completed his or her programme should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


The candidate

  • knows inherent challenges in understanding the dynamics of social systems
  • knows the system dynamics paradigm and alternative methods of analysis
  • knows system dynamics applications to problems in public and private sectors
  • knows how system structure can be portrayed in terms of stocks, flows, and feedback
  • knows behaviors that arise from fundamental structures of dynamic systems
  • knows at least one system dynamics software package and is aware of others


The candidate

  • is able to define problems, observe client perspectives, and assess importance
  • is able to build on theory to formulate hypotheses about problem causes
  • is able to build on and transfer knowledge from related cases
  • is able to analyze hypotheses in terms of realism and ability to explain problems
  • is able to explain behavior, detect weaknesses, and reformulate hypotheses
  • is able to evaluate the usefulness of hypotheses as theories/models for policy analysis
  • is able to identify new policies and to test these by way of simulation
  • is able to assess whether simulated policy options are cost-effective and practical
  • is able to communication with clients to overcome hinders for implementation
  • is able to report to an academic audience showing equations, diagrams, and graphs
  • is able to contribute to the literature and to theory building

General competence

The candidate

  • can engage in discussion with class mates, with colleagues, and with the general public
  • can write and speak effectively
  • can take ethical considerations into account when conducting research and interacting with clients, stakeholders, and colleagues
  • can seek the roots of problems and avoid overconfidence in quick fixes
  • can quickly transfer knowledge from basic models to a multitude of problem areas

Admission Requirements

In order to apply for the Master's Programme in System Dynamics you need a bachelor's degree of 3-4 years' duration, or an equivalent educational background.

  • The degree must include 1,5 years (80-90 ECTS) of full-time studies in relevant courses in either social sciences, including management, or natural sciences, including engineering.

You also need to document:

Master thesis credits

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. Before choosing thesis topics, students are expected to consult with and gain approval from supervisors. A sample of recent topics includes:

  • simulation models: AIDS in Tanzania, prison overcrowding in the U.K., urban transportation in China, energy taxation, fluctuations in Colombia's coffee market, skilled labor market in Norway, sovereign debt crisis in Greece;
  • laboratory experiments: young people's understanding of delayed uptake of alcohol in the blood stream, popular misperceptions of energy taxes/urban transportation dynamics/collective action;
  • methodology: eigenvalue analysis of nonlinear system dynamics models, nonlinear and dynamic model optimisation in policy space, synthetic data experiments in social systems.

Please note that in order to write a thesis (take the course GEO-SD351), there is a requirement of an average result of C or better after the completion of all mandatory coursework. Only those who have met the required standards will be able to proceed with the programme.

If a student¿s master project requires substantial, time-consuming empirical work, typically in collaboration with a public or private enterprise, the student may apply for the 60 ECTS master¿s thesis. If approved, the coursework in semester 3 is waived, and replaced by GEO-SD350 Master's Thesis in System Dynamics (60 ECTS). Students who choose to embark on this alternative must, by the end of the second semester, send an application and project description to the Department of Geography.

Sequential Requirements, courses

First semester (autumn):

  • GEO-SD302 Fundamentals of Dynamic Social Systems
  • GEO-SD303 Model-based Analysis and Policy Design
  • GEO-SD304 System Dynamics Modelling Process

Second semester (spring):

Third semester (autumn):

  • GEO-SD309 Model Based Interactive Learning Environments
  • GEO-SD310 Writing course and project description
  • GEO-SD330 Natural Resource Management

Either semester:

  • GEO-SD322 Special Topics in System Dynamics, Policy (may substitute for another spring course, with permission of the department)
  • GEO-SD323 Special Topics in System Dynamics, Applications (may substitute for another spring course, with permission of the department)
  • GEO-SD324 Special Topics in System Dynamics, Methodology(may substitute for another spring course, with permission of the department)

All courses provide 10 ECTS.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, seminars, data labs, assignments, project modelling, individual supervision.

Assessment methods

The System Dynamics Group uses a variety of assessments:

  • Written exam
  • Online exam
  • Term paper
  • Project description
  • Modeling project           
  • Modeling project and oral presentation

Grading scale

At the University of Bergen the student's academic performance is assessed both through final examinations as well as various term assignments.

The grading system has either

  1. a descending scale from A to E for passes and F for fail, or
  2. pass/fail

Grading A-F is most commonly used.

Access to further studies

A master's degree in System Dynamics qualifies for studies at a PhD level.


Master programme in System Dynamics aims to prepare students for an international career in strategic modelling with System Dynamics. The programme will teach you the foundations of system dynamics modelling and how you can apply System Dynamics modelling to a variety of real life complex problems and how you can facilitate the model building process with the client. These skills will enable you to develop the flexibility required to be successful within European and global organisations, whether it be major consultancy firms, strategic planning departments of larger corporations or in public administrations or NGOs. Due to the broad overview you acquire and the systemic approach that is followed in the programme, you are also qualified for more entrepreneurial tasks, either in starting your own company or within established companies.

Administrative responsibility

Department of Geography, System Dynamics group