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River Delta Development

2 year master in English, starts in September, Middelburg | Velp | Rotterdam

The English-taught master River Delta Development is a unique joint degree offered by three universities of applied sciences with complementing expertise in the field of water.

The three universities of applied sciences are: HZ University of Applied Sciences (coastal regions), Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences (river systems), and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (urban water).

River Delta Development: facilitators of change

The master River Delta Development trains students to be facilitators of change for river deltas. Everywhere in the world, urbanisation and climate change are encroaching upon these fertile, ecologically valuable regions. The challenge is to decrease the vulnerability of river deltas while simultaneously increasing the opportunities for healthy economic and ecological development. In the master River Delta Development, these developments are viewed as transitions: progressive, complex changes and adjustments in river delta systems that demand professionals who can intervene effectively. These transitions require innovative, multidisciplinary, and holistic solutions. Versatile delta professionals are required, who not only have knowledge of river delta systems (coasts, seas, and rivers) and the latest developments, but also possess the necessary research and communication skills to make meaningful contributions to these transitions. The central theme of the River Delta Development master programme is: The transition of deltas: from large-scale management to sustainable adaptation.

The Dutch delta as an example

The universities of applied sciences of HZ, Van Hall Larenstein, and Rotterdam have been collaborating at the Centre of Expertise Delta Technology for several years and are combining their complementing expertise in the fields of coastal regions, river systems, and urban water to create the River Delta Development master. This will provide you with insight into how the different component systems operate, how they relate to each other, and how the delta functions as a cohesive system. By focusing (and working, if you choose) on the international context, you will learn how to apply this knowledge in deltas around the world. 

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Facts and figures

The programme at a glance

Programme structure

A view of the study programme

Unique Master's programme

River Delta Development unique features

  • you will acquire in-depth knowledge of a river delta system through 2 years of working in and learning about the various constituent regions, specifically the coast, river systems, and urban water;
  • you will gain knowledge and insight into transitional processes, system changes, and research methods;
  • you will work using the latest insights and methods in delta technology, design, and governance by participating in research programmes at the three universities of applied sciences;
  • you will develop your personal and professional competencies through innovative research methods based on a didactically supported competency profile and will be tested and assessed for satisfactory completion by delta professionals, applied professors, researchers, and lecturers.

The River Delta Development master is the only professional Master’s programme in this field at the hbo level in the Netherlands. All other water-related Master’s programmes are offered by research universities. A Master’s programme at the hbo level is distinguished by its practical approach, intensive collaboration with the work field (e.g. via Living Labs), and a broad perspective on the material (in this case, the river delta).

Would you like to know more about this programme? Then watch this webinar given by our Course Director, Annebeth Loois.


Study programme

The River Delta Development Master’s programme is a joint degree offered by the universities of applied sciences of HZ, VHL, and Rotterdam. The three universities of applied sciences each strive to provide high-quality education that prepares you for an ever-changing work field and is closely interwoven with professional practice and practical research. The focus lies on helping you develop into a facilitator of change in international delta regions.

Your Master’s programme will start with an intensive, one-month orientation. During that month, you will get to know your fellow students, lecturers, and professors and delve into the delta during a one-week field trip. Afterwards, you will use those experiences to analyse the entire delta system and examine what role you would like to play in the delta sector. You will then write a personal learning plan under the guidance of your coach. The kick-off will be held at HZ in Middelburg.

After the kick-off, you will be introduced to the Coast delta system, which will also be held at HZ. You will be working in Living Labs, with one day a week spent at the university of applied sciences, where you will participate in lectures, coaching, and reflection. After 15 weeks of research, you will complete this period with an evaluation week during which you will undergo assessments of your own research in relation to the delta as a whole and the issues at work in that environment. Under the guidance of lecturers, you will also collectively examine how everyone’s research fits into the entire delta system. Similar blocks on River systems (at Van Hall Larenstein in Velp) and Urban Water (at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) will follow. The three blocks, which work on building your knowledge, research skills, and specific professional development, will last a total of 17 weeks at each university of applied sciences.

After completing the three blocks, there will be a final phase of seventeen weeks, during which you will create and present a final product. In conclusion, the last, integral competencies will be tested by means of a portfolio and oral final assessment. The location where you will graduate depends on your final product

Working method

The projects in delta zones are so large and the systems are so complex that simple solutions are often not an option. Fundamental interventions are required. This is why the Living Labs were created: testing grounds where professional practice and universities of applied sciences collaborate on complex tasks. In addition to solving problems and taking advantage of opportunities, the Living Labs are also about learning together. As a student in the River Delta Development Master’s programme, you will take part in Living Labs in which the professorships and research centres of the three universities of applied sciences are involved. You will be working on location, on real-world issues, in multidisciplinary teams along with professionals from the field. You will find yourself making the rounds along the delta: the Master’s programme begins at HZ in Middelburg, continues at Van Hall Larenstein in Velp, and is completed at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Expertise of the 3 institutions

The Master’s programme River Delta Development is a unique joint degree offered by three universities of applied sciences with complementing expertise in the field of water. As a river basin, the delta is the natural connection between the three universities of applied sciences.

Natural processes such as rising sea levels, soil subsidence, an increase in powerful storms, and salinisation play an important role in the delta. In conjunction with the growing population, this puts pressure on the limited space, referred to as ‘coastal squeeze’. This increases the risk of flooding and other severe events. The challenge for delta professionals is to redirect global issues affecting the delta, which are also clearly visible in the south-west of the Netherlands, towards sustainable developments and take a step-by-step approach to arriving at safe, resilient, and economically vital delta coasts.

Building with nature

The transition projects in the south-western delta are substantial. Coastal protection plays an important role in delta regions. We know from experience that natural solutions are more resilient when it comes to withstanding disturbances (Building with nature).A wide range of expertise is required to make use of nature as much as possible for coastal protection. In addition to safety, these solutions also contribute to natural development and the economy (recreation).

The importance of water

Providing freshwater, water purification, and the recovery of raw materials are essential themes related to quality of life in delta regions. These demand special technology for the purification of water, such as desalination, reuse of water streams, and the application of systems that direct and monitor water quality and quantity.

Research programmes

In addition to the more technical transitional projects mentioned above, the socioeconomic perspective is also of great importance. Examples of this are citizens motivated to be self-reliant and the role of professionals in that self-reliant society. Further research into the relationship between spatial use, social capital, economy, and the vital infrastructure of delta regions is required.

As a student of the River Delta Development Master’s programme, you will conduct practical research in the research programmes of the Delta Academy Applied Research Centre. That research will focus on the following themes:

  • Salinisation and freshwater
  • Food production in saltwater
  • Ecosystem services
  • Water safety and critical infrastructure
  • Adaptivity in society (socioeconomic perspective)

There are currently a variety of international research projects under way within these research outlines with a large number of partners, many of which are a part of large, national, and international research programmes.

Van Hall Larenstein is located on an estate at the edge of the Veluwe, in the centre of the river system, near the big rivers as well as various streams and canals. These surroundings have served to provide centuries of experience in the optimisation of water management. Examples of changes to the system are literally right around the corner: from the creek that flows across the estate to the point where the IJssel and lower Rhine diverge at the Pannerdens Kanaal and the dikes at Hondsbroeksche Pleij in Westervoort, just 15 minutes away by bicycle. New standards, climate effects, and socioeconomic and technological developments mean that continuous improvement of the river system is necessary to preserve its safety, vitality, and quality of life from source to mouth.


The current transitional task in the river system specifically focuses on addressing risks on the one hand and coordinating the many parties involved in the system on the other, all the way from the source to the sea. Addressing risks requires precise analysis of the vulnerability of a region and insights into the concepts to be applied and measures to be taken, such as multi-layer safety and future-proof flood defences. Coordinating the setup and management of river systems is complex due to the many parties involved at various scale levels and the associated regulations and policies. Transnational collaboration forms a specific component because of the fact that some streams and rivers cross national borders. As such, governance is an important aspect for the sustainable transition of river systems.

Research programmes

During the period at Van Hall Larenstein, you will be exposed to course content on the river system as well as its physiogeographical and methodical side. You will conduct research projects linked to the Delta Areas and Resources Applied Research Centre. These will focus on the circular management of the river and integral regional design of river systems, during which a balance must be struck between safety, economics, ecology, and cultural history.

The Applied Research Centre is currently conducting different projects with a wide range of parties, varying from the Rijkswaterstaat (government body for infrastructure and water management) to business owners and nature preservation organisations.

Rivers, seas, precipitation, groundwater, drinking water, and wastewater are all elements of the urban water in Rotterdam. These water streams are an integral part of the urban region in supporting its users and residents. The city has many technical, spatial, economic, and social projects that form complex relationships with each other. The pillars of the River Delta Development Master’s programme in Rotterdam are urban planning and construction, infrastructure, and mobility and water management. This knowledge is used to research the spatial, infrastructural, civil engineering, and governance aspects of water in delta cities and to resolve practical issues.

Transitions in the urban delta

Just like any other delta city, Rotterdam engages in substantial transitional projects. The relocation of harbour businesses towards the coast creates spatial issues that need to be addressed in the former inner-city harbours. The harbour itself generates a substantial share of national CO2 emissions, is involved in significant international competition, and relies heavily on the petrochemical industry, which is expected to become smaller over time. The delta city must protect itself from the negative effects of climate change. The roles of the government, citizens, and businesses are changing as well. The city aims to achieve a 50% reduction in CO2, to become 100% climate resistant and is focused on shifting from petrochemicals to a sustainable production industry. Some of the results of this are Rotterdam Climate Proof, the urban harbour programme, Rotterdam Innovation District, the Rotterdam adaptation strategy, Resilient Rotterdam, and Water Sensitive Rotterdam. The city is a part of Connecting Delta Cities and 100 Resilient Cities and is internationally known as one of the leaders in these fields.

Research programmes

As a student of the River Delta Development Master’s programme, you will conduct practical research into the transition towards a sustainable delta city in research programmes at the Kenniscentrum Duurzame Havenstad (research centre for a sustainable harbour city) and the Instituut voor de Gebouwde Omgeving (institute for the built environment). This research can be carried out at large-scale experimental zones in the city, e.g. at Merwe-Vierhavens, as well as in residential areas which provide different scales, dynamics, issues, and potential solutions. Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences is already active in these areas via institutions such as the RDM Centre of Expertise and the Centre of Expertise Maatschappelijke Innovatie (centre of social innovation expertise).

Lecturer Team

The best possible guidance


An overview of the blocks

After your study programme

After your graduation

Congratulations! You have just finished your Master in River Delta Development and will recieve the title of Master of Science (MSc).

This programme is fully accredited by 60 credits in the ECTS System Accreditation (European Credit Transfer System) accredited by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO).

With your degree, you will receive a supplement, a DS-label. With this document, you can show the value of your degree abroad when applying for other study programmes or when applying for a job.

Future perspectives

Why this master: potential job prospects

River Delta Development has been developed in close cooperation with professionals. Governmental institutions as well as consultancy are clear about their needs: professionals who think and work in constructive, integrated ways, that have the knowledge of transitional processes and are capable of moving people and organizations to make things happen. The world is in transition (climate, energy, circular economy etc.) and needs people that can facilitate this change. In delta areas many issues come together and are enhanced by the high population density and vulnerable location. This creates a demand for educated, enthusiastic, passionate young people that will take on a role to develop resilient, safe and sustainable delta life.

Positions you could think of after you finished the master River Delta Development:

  • process manager
  • initiator of new projects
  • facilitator of civil changes
  • researcher
  • administrator
  • consultant


Where will you study?

The education location of the programme varies. During the first half year (30 EC), you will study at HZ in Middelburg, the second half year will be spent at Van Hall Larenstein in Velp, and the third half year will be completed at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. A week of instruction consists of a lecture day at the relevant education location and four project days at one of the Living Labs. Depending on your preference, the location of the Living Labs may vary. You can spend up to one semester conducting research in a Living Lab abroad.