Earth Surface and Water, M.Sc. | Utrecht University | Utrecht, Netherlands
M.Sc. On Campus

Earth Surface and Water

24 months
21736 EUR/year
2314 EUR/year
Tuition fee
Apply date
Start date


The Earth Surface and Water programme at Utrecht University involves the study of natural and human-induced physical and geochemical processes, patterns, and dynamics of the Earth’s continental and coastal systems.


The Earth Surface and Water programme at Utrecht University provides you with knowledge that is essential to manage the planet sustainably, guarantee the availability of natural resources for future generations, and understand and avert natural hazards.

The main subject areas you will study consist of the dynamics of coastal and river systems, (geo-)hydrological processes, groundwater remediation, land degradation in dry lands and mountainous regions, natural hazards, and delta evolution on centennial and longer time scales.

You can choose one of four tracks based on your interests in the field:

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

Core Areas of Research

The Earth Surface and Water programme trains students to quantitatively study the natural and human-induced physical and chemical processes, patterns, and dynamics of Earth’s continental and coastal systems as well as their responses to global change. 

Students explore and understand the modelling capabilities of the past, present, and future as well as the evolution of Earth’s environment, including human impact on this evolution.

In the programme, you will address questions such as:

  • How do river floods affect delta systems and their inhabitants?
  • How can we use natural processes under climate change to maintain safe - yet attractive and dynamic - coastlines?
  • How can satellite images be used to estimate erosion losses?
  • Will we have enough water to sustain the world’s rapidly increasing population in 2050?
  • What is the most efficient way to clean an oil spill that enters the soil and groundwater? 

The programme trains students to combine field observations and laboratory experiments with the latest developments in remote sensing and computational methods. Research developed by our staff and students has a strong international profile, encompasses scales ranging from microscopic to global, and concerns both past and contemporary processes.

Programme Objective

Physical geographers, geochemists, and hydrologists are necessary to identify nature’s actions in our modern world, especially with society’s ever-increasing pressure on the natural environment. 

The Earth Surface and Water programme therefore focusses on imminent societal problems, such as society’s increased vulnerability to climate and environmental changes and to natural hazards such as flooding, storms, and mass movements. 

It also addresses the threats and opportunities resulting from human activity on our physical environment, including the hydrological cycle.

Career Prospects

Many of our graduates go on to find employment in research. Depending on your personal interests and ambitions, you will be equipped to work in both fundamental and applied research. 

You can pursue a career in applied research in government institutes, consulting firms, or various industries. Typical professional profiles of our graduates include Physical Geographer, Geochemist, and Hydrologist.

Knowledge of coastal and river management, land use, natural resources, pollution, and hazard mitigation provides you with a good basis for understanding the past, present, and future evolution of Earth’s environment, including human impact on this evolution. 

The numerous environmental issues currently facing us mean you can pursue a variety of employment opportunities in diverse sectors.


Accredited by the NVAO - Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders.

Programme Structure

Courses include:

  • Statistics and Data Analysis in Physical Geography
  • Principles of Groundwater Flow
  • Advanced Gis for Geoscientists
  • Field Research Instruction Geochemistry
  • Environmental Hydrogeology
  • Masters Excursion Earth Surface and Water

Key information


  • Full-time
    • 24 months

Start dates & application deadlines


120 ECTS


On Campus

Academic requirements

We are not aware of any academic requirements for this programme.

Other requirements

General requirements

The programme Earth Surface and Water is open to students with a Bachelor's degree in a relevant subject (e.g. earth sciences, natural sciences, physics, physical geography, civil engineering, applied mathematics).

With regard to the educational requirements you should possess the following knowledge and skills:

  • Geology and geomorphology; the understanding of processes at different spatial and temporal scales.
  • Natural processes (earth system processes in soil, water, atmosphere, ecosystems).
  • Mathematics (calculus -i.e. differential equations, integration, differentiation- and linear algebra).
  • Physics, classical mechanics (including stability, dynamics of linear and rotational movement, waves and simple harmonic motion).
  • Academic and research skills, reporting on the empirical cycle in written and oral form.

Tuition Fee

To alway see correct tuition fees
  • International

    21736 EUR/year
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the tuition of 21736 EUR per year during 24 months.
  • EU/EEA

    2314 EUR/year
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the tuition of 2314 EUR per year during 24 months.

Living costs for Utrecht

900 - 1450 EUR /month
Living costs

The living costs include the total expenses per month, covering accommodation, public transportation, utilities (electricity, internet), books and groceries.


Studyportals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

Our partners

Earth Surface and Water
Utrecht University
Earth Surface and Water
Utrecht University


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