The Master of Communication Studies is a one-year academic master with a focus on New Media and Society in Europe. This unique English language programme focuses on the rapidly changing field of media and communication in a European context. The programme takes an original interdisciplinary approach and allows students to concentrate on business, policy and/or user aspects of new media.

The VUB also offers a second Master option in Communication Studies with a focus on Journalism and Media in Europe.


This Master of Communication Studies gives you the unique opportunity to study in an environment with all European institutions right at hand. The European Union plays a crucial role in media and communication policies. It has tried to foster a single European market in media and services. Through several large programmes, it has stimulated innovation and the emergence of a European Information Society. The European Commission’s current Digital Agenda for Europe sets the framework for the coming years. In this master programme, you will gain an understanding of European policy and policymaking in the fields of media, innovation and the internet.

This programme is organized on the Brussels Humanities, Science & Engineering Campus

Discover the campus facilities


Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is a dynamic and modern university with almost two centuries of history. VUB has 15.000 students, 21% of which are international students from more than 120 different countries. Being a student at VUB means learning in an international and open atmosphere of tolerance and diversity that will help you to grow into an independent and critical-thinking individual. 

VUB offers high quality English-taught programmes, supported by outstanding research. VUB is known for treating its students as individuals. Professors and teaching assistants are available and open to answer questions from students. Interactive methods ensure close interaction and contribute to students growing into independent and critical individuals.

The international experience

Any questions on the programme design or entry requirements?




All new students start mid-September with a series of daytime classes in 13 weeks. The first semester ends in the 3rd week of December (winter break). The first exam session (1st semester courses) is organized in January.


starting halfway February - 8 weeks of class, followed by the spring break, and then another 5 weeks of class. The first exam session (2nd semester courses) is organized at the end of May and in June.


If you would have failed for one or more exams, we have a second exam session organized from mid-August till mid-September. This second chance exam is included in your enrollment and we expect you to attend this exam if you've failed a first exam session (no failed result is transferred to second session).


The master programme consists of 5 compulsory courses and the master thesis, in total for 48 ECTS. You should complete this with electives for 12 ECTS, so you become a total of 60 ECTS.  

Due to the course load and daytime course schedule, a combination with full time employment is not possible.


6 ECTS - Semester 1

This course explores, on the basis of lectures by Professor Tim Raats and group discussions, the policies that impact Europe’s media and communications sectors. How do both national and European policies contribute or fail to contribute to quality of media, diversity, trust, freedom of expression, etc.? How are minors protected against hate speech? How are platforms held to account for harmful content? Topics elaborated on include policies on public service media, the film and creative industries, video-sharing platforms, fake news, illegal content, competition among super-platforms, etc.

6 ECTS - Semester 1

What is the impact of technology on media and society? And what is the impact of society on technology? These are the key questions that this course focuses on. Students have a look at seminal work of researchers such as Innis, McLuhan, Bell, Perez, Castells, Couldry, Zuboff, etc. Together with Professor Leo Van Audenhove students critically engage with this topic, discussing on the existence of an information society or knowledge economy, the dangers of surveillance, the global village that has emerged from digital convergence, etc.

6 ECTS - Semester 1 & 2

In this prestigious lecture series, organized by Professor Luciano Morganti, invited guest speakers from the European Commission, companies such as Discovery Communications, Google and Politico, civil society, etc. share their newest insights on economic, political, technical, legal and societal aspects of new media and society in Europe. They fiercely criticize the new data protection rules of the European Commission, they defend emerging platform regulation or completely destroy it, they talk passionately about the diversity of European cultures, etc. In all of this being challenged by a body of highly critical students.

6 ECTS - Semester 2

This course focuses on the interplay between changes and design of digital media and technologies on the one hand and transitions in the way consumers and citizens in Europe adopt and use digital media in their everyday life on the other hand. In other words: Professor Jo Pierson explains how people use digital media, what differences you have in terms of usage between for example young and old people, and how new technologies shape user behavior. A highly topical course that sheds light on the digital behavior of all people and not only the, sometimes, atypical behavior of the student audience itself.

6 ECTS - Semester 1

In case you want to know more about the business and economics of new media, this course, lectured by Professor Pieter Ballon, will be the highlight of the year. Topics such as innovation and diversity in media, advertising, competition and bottlenecks in new media markets, future networks for new media and net neutrality are part of this course that prepares students to go into strategy departments of media companies, management and interest groups.

18 ECTS - Semester 1 & 2

The Master Thesis in Communciation Studies is the work by which you complete the master’s programme. With the Master Thesis the student demonstrates analytical and synthetic skills or an independent problem-solving capacity on an academic level. The work reflects the general critical-reflective mindset or the research mentality of the student.

The Master Thesis treats a topic that is related to one of the subareas that are addressed within the master’s programme Communication Studies.


Professor Karen Donders – programme director of the master – will explain the key changes and trends in markets ranging from audiovisual production, aggregation, distribution to platforms. Taking content (House of Cards, The Crown, The Bold and The Beautiful, The Voice) as a starting point, the main companies, revenue models, challenges, and future prospects of a rapidly changing industry are discussed. Students co-create 6 (!) lessons, in which they prepare and later on discuss on topical cases such as streaming wars between Netflix, Disney and Apple.

Open science and the knowledge based society; Key trends and policies: what is changing and why; Implications for stakeholders (including scientists).

This course aims to introduce and discuss in-depth the wide variety of approaches within the field of Media, Culture and Globalisation Theories.

It sets out from a critical discussion on Globalization, via questions such as how has the concept and field of globalization developed historically?; Is globalization new?; What have been turning points in globalization’s development and in the globalization of media and culture; Are these developments positive / negative and for whom?

In each of the following classes key authors and seminal theoretical texts in the field of media, culture and globalization are explained, discussed and evaluated. In addition, the theoretical content is applied or illustrated via concrete cases.

The course takes an interdisciplinary road trip at the role and meaning of data and privacy in mediated communication, online platforms and society, from a social, economic, technological and regulatory perspective. We discuss central theories, research, terminology, current issues, and future challenges on big data, privacy, ethics, literacy and user empowerment in different fields of society, from the perspective of Media and Communication Studies and STS (Science & Technology Studies). For this we incorporate three inextricable and mutually determining components: artefacts, practices and social arrangements. More in particular the lectures take an in-depth look at national and international developments in social media, sharing economy applications and data technologies (e.g. Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Uber, Internet-of-Things, Smart Cities, health apps,…). We apply the knowledge in concrete and interactive class exercises. This is coupled with practical interventions with scientists, government, public organisations (eg Belgian Privacy Commission), companies, civil society organisations, artists and other stakeholders.

Not a regular methodology class, but a deep-dive course to get your social science research skills ready for the onlife world. In this course different data gathering, cleaning, analysis and vizualisation techniques for big and small data sets are learned. The methodological implications of using Tweets, Hashtags, Youtube Comments, Hyperlinks, algorithms and other types of digital data to research the datafied society are also discussed

The course focuses on the European Public Sphere (EPS) and the EU Information and Communication policy and analyses their evolution, development and setbacks in the context of the EU multilevel governance structure. The course will cover, amongst other, the following topics:

  • The EU decision making process;
  • The main theories of EU integration;
  • The main theories of the Public Sphere and the European Public Sphere;
  • The EU Information and Communication policy and the role and responsibilities of the main EU institutions;
  • The EU public sphere(s) and its state of the art and challenges ahead;
  • The role and interplay of EU governance and EU citizenship and identity building in the making of a critical EU Public Sphere;
  • The EU as a participative and deliberative polity;
  • Specific topics, themes and case-studies related to the topics above might be included according to the EU Institutional agenda and the development of the EU integration process.

The course basically deals with the applied ethical domain of business ethics, departing from the question to what extent business ethics can live up to the fundamental ethical questions. After having dealt with traditional ethical movements and their relevance for business ethics, some specific themes come to the fore (bureaucracy, capitalism, globalism...). Besides traditional ethicists (Aristotle, Kant, Bentham, Levinas) other auhtors are treated that have special relevance for business ethics such as Bauman, Solomon, Bowie, MacIntyre, Sloterdijk...

In 1996 John Barlow wrote his famous Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace. The Internet would not be governed by governments or the industry, it would be governed by the Internet Community itself. That ideal seems a far way of now. Critical internet resources are managed by ICANN, but it’s legitimacy is still being challenged. Governments do regulate and control the internet in different fields. More authoritarian countries actively censor the Internet. This course introduces students to Internet Governance. It focuses on the international debates on Internet Governance. It gives an overview of governments practices of controlling and regulating the internet. It discusses central themes such as human rights and the internet, censorship and repression, the democratic potential of the Internet, copyright and infringement, etc.

A classic definition of media literacy is the one constructed at the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy in 1993: 'Media Literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate messages in a variety of forms'. Media literacy is a booming topic in our fast changing digital media environment. At least, at the rhetorical level it is said to be of utmost importance that all people are media literate. The media literacy field is a highly diverse field. In a review of the field in 2013 Potter identifies 23 different definitions of media literacy. Although all theories on media literacy pay attention to a certain level of critical understanding towards media and news content, digitalization of media and the fast innovation in the field have turned attention to levels of access to digital media, to the strengthening of technical skills to deal with computers, tablets and smart phones and the applications running on them. In this course we focus on 1) the theoretical discussions on media literacy, 2) policies on media literacy in selected European countries,  at the level of the EU and UNESCO, 3) concrete projects on media literacy in Flanders and Europe.


The fundamental goal of the traineeship programme in the International Master 'New Media and Society in Europe' is to have practical training and acquire practical skills. Concretely, the internship programme aims for students

  • to operationalize and test, in a professional environment, the theoretical knowledge obtained in following the Master;
  • to develop professional skills and competences in light of future jobs / career (incl. networking);
  • to critically (self-)reflect on both the institutional environment and company/organization, as well as on personal development (knowledge-building, skills, strengths and weaknesses, ...) during the traineeship.

The traineeship can be completed in the first or second semester. There are two types of traineeships: research traineeships or professional traineeships. Especially for a professional traineeship, students can search for and propose a traineeship to the traineeship coordinator who needs to approve the position proposed by the student.


The course focuses on the European Public Sphere (EPS) and the EU Information and Communication policy and analyses their evolution, development and setbacks in the context of the EU multilevel governance structure.  

The course is divided into 5 main conceptual units:

The European Union Decision Making Process and Participatory Mechanisms – After a short introduction to the raison d’être of the EU, in this part the supranational and intergovernmental dimension of the EU will be put into perspective with the different decision making mechanisms of the EU (EU policy modes). Theories of EU Integration will be discussed in relation to the European Pubic Sphere and the EU Information and Communication Policy.

The European Public Sphere – In this part of the course the European Public Sphere will be put into context and theoretical aspects of the Public Sphere and the European Public Sphere will be confronted with the reality of its implementation in the European Multilevel governance structure. Issues of multiple European identities and cultures, different ideas of citizenship, different democratic systems, different models of participation, the complex relationship between media and political systems will be discussed. 

The European Media landscape – will take into consideration the evolving European Media landscape. The issue of European Media VS Europeanisation of Media will be discussed. This unit will also propose a critical analysis of the history, development, role and importance of European Media in the context of the EPS and European integration. 

The European Union Information and Communication policy – will considered the birth, development and evolution of the European Information and communication policy and its declinations in policy papers, actions and programmes. The challenges of communicating and informing about the EU in the EU will be discussed. Specific cases studies will be used to illustrate successes and failures of the EU institutional approach to information and communication. 

Main current debates and critical issues for the European Public Sphere – The last module of the course (which will be articulated along the course) will be dedicated to debate critical aspects and issues for the European Public sphere and Citizens’ participation. The topics debated will be related to current policy priorities and developments, relevant political issues and developments, EU integration issues, and EU current debates. Possible topics might be: the European approach to disinformation and fake news, Brexit, a critical analysis of the EU consultation mechanisms, the European Citizens Initiative, the role of European Political Parties and the relationship between the European Parliament and the national ones, the growing role and importance of populist parties in the EU integration process.


The traineeship is offered as an elective. The fundamental goal is to have practical training and acquire practical skills. The traineeship programme aims for students to operationalize and test, in a professional environment, the theoretical knowledge obtained in following the Master. This allows them to develop professional skills and competences while networking; all with their future career in mind. It also spurs our students to critically (self-) reflect on both the institutional environment and company/organization, as well as on personal development (knowledge-building, skills, strengths and weaknesses, ...) during the traineeship. 

At VUB, the Career Center bundles all traineeship options for each "branche", to keep an overview. In Brussels, these options seem endless!


Learning outcomes describe the intended knowledge and understanding, skills and attitudes that you must master after completing your studies. Do you want to know more about the specific learning outcomes of this programme? Click here for more information.

Are you eligible to join the programme?

Find out the entry requirements

meet your professors

The master is organized by the Department of Communication Studies. All our professors are academic experts in their field, and they draw on own research in their courses. They are linked to one of three research centers: SMIT (Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication), CEMESO (Studies on Media and Culture) or DESIRE (Centre for the study of Democracy, Signification and Resistance).

Meet the core team of professors in the master.

Karen Donders (Programme Director)

Karen Donders lectures on European Media Markets, Policy Analysis and Political Economy of Journalism. Her expertise domains are European media policy, European competition policy in the media sector, European platform policies, European media markets, and public service media strategies and policies across Europe. She has published widely on these issues, including the book Platform Power and Policy in Transforming Television Markets (2018, with Tom Evens). She is a regularly invited key note speaker at academic and industry events. As the programme director, you can send her an e-mail with content-related questions on the programme. She is also programme director of the Postgraduate in media economics, an interesting specialization programme after the master. 

Laurence Claeys

Prof.dr. Laurence Claeys lectures on innovations processes and the role of technological and scientific inventions to drive societal innovations and on digital research methods.  In her research she looks into how empowerment and emancipation can be built into technologies during the design and development processes.  She closely follows up innovative trends in technology, society and methodology. Her interest in innovation is wider than the academic world as she co-founded the Internet-of-Things company Sensolus (www.sensolus.com) where she is taking up the role of product manager.

Luciano Morganti

Luciano Morganti is an assistant professor at the VUB Communication Department and a senior researcher at SMIT. His work focuses on the interaction between (new) communication technologies and democratic processes, with particular attention for the concept and practices of a European Public Sphere. He also works on Internet governance and on foreign correspondents in the EU. Prof. Morganti coordinates the Brussels Talking Lecture Series. He is the coordinator of the Master thesis and supervises master theses on media and the (European) public sphere, and on mediated citizen participation, especially on the level of the European Union.

Jo Pierson

Jo Pierson is associate professor in the Department of Media and Communication Studies. He is Principal Investigator at iMEC-SMIT. In this position, he is in charge of the research on ‘Privacy, Ethics & Literacy’, in close cooperation with. He holds the VUB Chair in ‘Data Protection on the Ground’. He lectures undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Hasselt University and University of Amsterdam, covering socio-technical issues of digital media design and use. Drawing upon media and communication studies, in combination with science and technology studies, his interdisciplinary research focusses on data privacy, algorithms, online platforms and user innovation. In addition to the latter topics, he supervises master theses on issues of data literacy, smart speakers, citizen science, sharing economy, GDPR in practice and surveillance capitalism.

Leo Van Audenhove

Leo Van Audenhove is head of the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He is a researcher at iMEC-SMIT. He is extra-ordinary professor at the University of the Western Cape. In 2013, he was instrumental in setting up the Knowledge Centre for Digital and Media Literacy in Flanders, of which he subsequently became the director. The centre was established by government as an independent center to promote digital and media literacy in Flanders. His research focuses on media and data literacy, e-inclusion and digital participation, internet governance and ICT4D.

Pieter Ballon

Pieter Ballon is Associate Professor in Communication Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. He is the Director of research centre imec-SMIT-VUB, as well as Scientific Director Living Labs at imec, the internationally leading research institute for nanotechnology and digital innovation. He specialises in platform competition and business model innovation in the domains of media and smart cities. Since 2009, Pieter Ballon is the international Secretary of the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL). Pieter Ballon is also co-founder of the international Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC) network. Since October 2016, Pieter Ballon is holder of the academic "Chair on Smart Cities" at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Pieter holds a PhD in Communication Sciences, and an MA in Modern Socio-Economic History. Previous to his current profession, he was senior consultant and team leader at TNO in the Netherlands.

Admissions criteria

You should meet both the academic and the language requirements to be found eligible to start this programme.



Candidates with a Flemish ‘Bachelor of Science in Communicatiewetenschappen' (VUB or other) degree or with a VUB Bachelor of Social Sciences degree have direct access to the programme.


All other applications are evaluated individually by an Admission Board. Factors taking into account by the Admission Board include:

  • English language proficiency (see below for minimal criteria)
  • Academic degree(s) already acquired in a relevant study field
  • Grades scored in previous studies (upload all higher educational transcripts of records)
  • Quality of motivation letter, including the fit between your motivation and what we offer
  • Other relevant experience


The programme is primarily aimed at students with an academic bachelor or master degree, preferably in the field of Social Sciences (Political Science, Sociology, Communication Studies, or related) or Economic Sciences (Applied Economics, Business, Management) with more than average results. Admission is dependent on selection. Students from other relevant fields (such as computer sciences, engineering, languages) can also apply, but need to motivate extensively why they consider this program a fit with their future ambitions and background.


Depending on the content of your previous studies, the Board can assign a short and individual preparatory programme to the candidate. This preparatory programme can be combined with the Master programme and typically consists of one or two extra courses to be taken during the master year. You can not only apply for the preparatory programme if you're not found eligible to join the master.


Good English language skills are an important prerequisite for successfully following the master. There are three ways to prove your proficiency:

Option A: send us one of the following language certificates proving your CEFR B2 level:

  • TOEFL (only the internet-based test is accepted): minimum level: 79
  • IELTS: minimum level academic module 6.5
  • Cambridge English: CAE grade B or CPE grade C (equivalent to the CEFR B2)
  • ITACE: minimum grade B2

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are aware that students may face difficulties to take a test in person. Please note that we also accept the TOEFL IBT Special Home Edition and the IELTS Indicator. These are variants of the classic TOEFL and IELTS tests that you may take at home.

Please note that language test results cannot be older than 5 years at the moment of application.

Option B: having successfully completed secondary or higher education with English as language of instruction:

  • submit official proof of the language of instruction of your previous study;

Option C: having successfully completed Belgian secondary education

  • submit official proof that you completed a study in the Belgian educational system

Certificates and other proof of language tests may not pre-date the first enrolment by more than two years.

Application deadlines

Submit your application, including all required documents, before the deadline!


for all non-eea students

Deadline 1st of April


all eea students and holders of a valid permit

Deadline 1st of September


How to apply to start in September 2021


based on your nationality and course registration

Calculate your tuition fee

Alumni Testimonials

Our alumni from all over the world share their experiences at VUB in the Communication Studies: New Media and Society in Europe master with you.

Marzia Graniglia, Social Media Manager, Italian Fitness Club Company (class of 2015)

“As an international student, I chose to attend the Master in Communication studies at the VUB for two main reasons: first, I wanted to acquire more knowledge on the media and communication field in Europe; second, I wished to strengthen my English and experience a multicultural environment. At the VUB I found a very caring and homely environment where teachers were very helpful and supportive. I would recommend this challenging program because can help you boost your career opportunities, I am currently working as Social Media Manager for an Italian company, and will allow you to experience a different educational and social life.”

Harry Urpatyan (Class of 2014)

“As a communication and public relations specialist, with background in European public administration and journalism, my studies with the VUB gave me valuable knowledge on global developments in media policy and business models in digital markets. I have applied this to my practical skills in developing strategic communication processes, which build mutually beneficial relationships between stakeholders, organizations and their publics. I found a very caring and homely environment at the university where my teachers, while highly qualified are approachable and very helpful. The masters’ programme provides also opportunity to attend meetings with representatives from global and European institutions and get first-hand experience on how they approach communication in multilateral relations. After my graduation, I was recruited as a communication expert by an international public sector consultancy, in top 5 of Europeaid contractors, where I use my academic and professional skills to yield better awareness and outreach on sustainable energy and climate adaptation projects in the Southern Neighborhood, funded by the European Commission.”

Pauline Urger, Communication Advisor at ULB (Class of 2016)

“As a Belgian student, selecting a Master taught in English at VUB was both a challenge and a great opportunity. During this year, I enjoyed a very international environment. More than 20 nationalities were represented and it truly encouraged multicultural exchanges between students. The various standpoints on the different media systems that each person experienced was insightful as well as source of open-minded debates. Substantially, the high-level scientific knowledge of the professors and their availability to supervise students offers an excellent educational background. Scientific rigour and methods, essay redaction, oral communication… Everything I expected from a Master-level programme was met at VUB. To sum up: VUB rocks and I would totally pick the MSc in Communication Sciences again if I went back in time!”

Yazan Badran, PhD researcher at the VUB (class of 2015)

“I came to the VUB in 2013 as a computer engineer with only a superficial knowledge of the field of social science, but with a genuine interest in deepening this knowledge. The NMSE master program was instrumental in equipping me with the analytical tools to understand today’s complex media and communication environment. More importantly, the program’s ethos, emphasising a critical and reflexive approach, proved indispensable to my aim of contributing productively to the field.”

Laura Baeyens, Communications Manager for the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) 2015

"Communications as a career and field of study in the EU can be very challenging due to its broadness, but doing the VUB Master helped me identify my strengths and exposed me to different aspects of media and communication. The international spirit of the programme and a focus on critical thinking has helped shape who I am as a communications professional today. It also opened many doors for me when I was looking for my next career challenge: I was offered a traineeship at the European Parliament right after finishing the Master and eventually landed a job in communications for an international organisation."

Christoph Oepen (class of 2014), International Sales Manager

" I am currently working as International Sales Manager for one of Germany’s leading trade show companies. In this job I am responsible for sales activities to international clients for food trade shows all around the world. Our shows can be found from Beijing to Bogotá. Communication with colleagues and clients from different cultures and backgrounds is an important part of my job. The programme has provided me with many skill sets which I can still use in my daily routine - Foremost the intercultural competences and presentation skills which I have gained during my time in Brussels. I still benefit for my time at VUB – not only in a professional sense but also from the friendships which were created at that time and which last until today."


A master degree opens doors in many different branches and sectors. You will be able to work in the private sector, (non-) governmental organisations, or continue your academic career as a PhD researcher. Not sure what your next step should be? The VUB helps you with your first steps on the job market.



First step in the market



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