Master's programme overview

The Master of Communication Studies is a one-year (60 ECTS) academic master's with a focus on digital media. The programme consists of two semesters. It comprises one set of compulsory courses (24 ECTS), one set of compulsory electives (12 ECTS) and one set of elective courses (24 ECTS). The elective courses allow students to focus on three specific fields: business and markets, policy, participation and governance, and user aspects of digital media and society in Europe. Students can decide to do a traineeship or choose two optional courses instead. 

Compulsory courses

Lecture Series - Digital Media in Europe

6 ECTS - Semesters 1 & 2

The Lecture Series - Digital Media in Europe is a prestigious series of lectures and round tables on the role of digital media in changing European societies. The series covers economic, political, technical, legal and societal aspects of media and their interplay with society. With invited guest speakers from the European media industry, journalism, academia and European institutions, the Lecture Series brings the digital media and the social platform changing reality right into the classroom. Students actively participate in the discussions and have the chance to network. 

Ethical aspects of the digital information society, threats and opportunities for broadcasting in the digital era, the challenges facing media and journalism and the future of education in the digital age are among the topics dealt with in the Lecture Series. The series complements the courses offered in the Digital Media in Europe programme providing insightful debates and critical perspectives about European media, technological innovation in the media industry, and the complex relationship between digital media and society. 

Course titular: Prof. Luciano Morganti

Master Thesis

18 ECTS - Semesters 1 & 2

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

Master Thesis: Pre-doctoral Track (instead of the 'classic' Master Thesis)

18 ECTS - Semesters 1 & 2

The Master Thesis: Pre-doctoral Track is a piece of work that completes the master's programme. By carrying out the ‘pre-doctoral track’ as a master's thesis, the student demonstrates analytical and synthesis abilities, as well as an independent problem-solving ability at an academic level. The “Master Thesis: Pre-doctoral Track” is a track for motivated students with high research potential and interested in doing a PhD in the future. Excellent and motivated students (see admission criteria) can opt for this course, instead of the ‘classic’ master thesis course.

Compulsory electives

There are 3 compulsory electives. Students take 2 of them (12 ECTS credits).

Media, Technology & Society

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 will focus on. Students will be taking a look at the seminal work of researchers such as Innis, McLuhan, Bell, Perez, Castells, Couldry, Zuboff, etc. Students critically engage with this topic, discussing the existence of an information society or knowledge economy, the dangers of surveillance, the global village that has emerged from digital convergence, etc.

Course titular: Prof. Leo Van Audenhove

European Platform Policies

6 ECTS - Semester 1

This course explores, on the basis of lectures 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 the 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.

Course titular: Prof. Tim Raats

Critical Issues in Digital Economics

6 ECTS - Semester 1

In case you want to know more about the business and economics of new media, this course will be the highlight of your 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.

Educational team: Prof. Pieter Ballon (course titular) & Prof. Annelien Smets

Elective courses

Students choose up to 24 ECTS from the elective courses.

Digital Innovation Management

6 ECTS - 2nd semester

The first unicorn company in Belgium started only a few years ago as a VUB spin-off. It is a prominent example of a new type of digital, data-driven startup that can grow very fast and operate on a global level.

Examples like these show that understanding and being successful in digital media and internet services requires new skills in entrepreneurship and innovation management. How to come up with data-driven innovation ideas? How to assess opportunities and potential impacts? How to make sure these inventions reach the market? How to set up and manage digital businesses?

The course is based on academic literature as well as on current, real-life case studies and inspiring testimonials of successful ventures and innovations in Europe, the US and Asia. You will gain in-depth knowledge of what is happening in digital markets today, and what is driving digital inventions and innovations.

Course titular: Prof. Annelien Smets

Users & Innovation in Digital Media

6 ECTS - 2nd semester

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, you will learn how people use digital media, what differences there are in terms of usage between for example young and old people, and how new technologies shape user behaviour. A highly topical course that sheds light on the digital behaviour of all people and not only the, at times, atypical behaviour of the student audience itself.

Course titular: Prof. Rob Heyman

Business and Consumer Ethics

6 ECTS - 2nd semester 

This course deals with the applied ethical domain of business ethics, departing from the question of 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 authors are treated that have special relevance for business ethics such as Bauman, Solomon, Bowie, MacIntyre, Sloterdijk...

Course titular: Prof. Karl Verstrynge

European Media Markets

6 ECTS - 2nd semester

This course contributes to the in-depth knowledge, understanding and insight within the field of communication sciences and in relation to the latest evolutions and discussions at both the national and international levels regarding media, the internet and globalisation. You will act upon an open attitude in a culturally diverse international context. You critically reflect on your own (geographical, social, cultural, local, personal, …) position.

Specific aims are:

At the level of reproduction and understanding of the course materials:

  • The characteristics of media markets in Europe.
  • The structure of different media markets (for product, Member State level).
  • How digitisation disrupts media markets and what role data-driven strategies play.


At the level of application and analysis:

  • The student can apply the course materials to recent media market trends.
  • The student can see the relations between different parts of the course, among others by identifying the differences and similarities between different media products and geographical markets and explaining these.
  • The student can analyse and see the impact of data on media market strategies.


At the level of evaluation and creation:

  • The student can engage in the research of a topical issue, relate this to course materials, and write a succinct non-scientific assignment on it. The group assignment should be descriptive, analytical and evaluative in nature.
  • The student can argue for or against a certain viewpoint throughout their assignment and can defend this point in a structured, well-argued manner during class.


Educational team: Prof. Tim Raats (course titular) & Prof. Marlen Komorowski

European Public Sphere

6 ECTS - 2nd semester

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 Public 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, and 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 consider 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 case studies will be used to illustrate the 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 debating 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.

Course titular: Prof. Luciano Morganti

Internet Censorship, Control and Governance

6 ECTS - 1st semester

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 from now. Critical internet resources are managed by ICANN, but their 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 the government's 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.

Course titular: Prof. Trisha Meyer

Media Literacy & Digital Inclusion

6 ECTS - 1st semester

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, analyse, 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, the digitalisation 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 smartphones 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, and 3) concrete projects on media literacy in Flanders and Europe.

Course titular: Prof. Leo Van Audenhove

Data, Privacy & Society

6 ECTS - 1st semester

This 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 (e.g. the Belgian Privacy Commission), companies, civil society organisations, artists and other stakeholders.

Course titular: Prof. Jo Pierson

Media, Culture & Globalisation Theories

6 ECTS - 2nd semester

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 Globalisation, via questions such as how has the concept and field of globalisation developed historically?; Is globalisation new?; What have been turning points in globalisation’s development and in the globalisation 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 globalisation are explained, discussed and evaluated. In addition, the theoretical content is applied or illustrated via concrete cases.

Educational team: Prof. Yazan Badran (course titular) & Prof. Catalina Iordache

Traineeship in Communication Studies: Digital Media in Europe

12 ECTS - 1st or 2nd semester

The fundamental goal of the traineeship programme in the International Master 'Digital Media in Europe' is to have practical training and acquire practical skills. More specifically, the internship programme aims for students:

  • to operationalise and test, in a professional environment, the theoretical knowledge obtained in following the Master's;
  • to develop professional skills and competencies 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 and 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.

At VUB, the Career Center bundles all traineeship options for each "branch" to keep an overview. Your options are endless when you study in Brussels.

What will you learn?

You'll acquire the attitude, skills and methodological and conceptual toolbox necessary to critically assess information found in journalism, political rhetoric and policy documents, and to see clearly in the information overload. And you'll develop the skills to base strategic actions on clear insights and scientific evidence. All courses require you to engage with current academic research. For your thesis, you will also set up your own small-scale empirical research: including building and formulating a research question and a conceptual framework, data gathering and analysis, and writing an attractive academic text.

Your study programme: practical details

Dive deeper into the course details and discover the learning results, study plans and admission criteria.


Master of Science in Communication Studies: Digital Media in Europe

Digital Media in Europe

Preparatory programme

Master of Science in Communication Studies

Digital Media in Europe

Looking for a specific programme? 

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