Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

International Institute of Social Studies

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Type  Public
Rector  Professor Inge Hutter
Colours  Black and Red
Phone  +31 70 426 0460
Number of students  280
Academic staff  145
Established  1952
Location  The Hague, Netherlands
Province  South Holland
Endowment  24.5 million EUR
Founded  1952
Affiliations  Ceres The Hague Academic Coalition
Address  Kortenaerkade 12, 2518 AX Den Haag, Netherlands
Notable alumni  Kasit Piromya, Ombeni Sefue, Kenneth Lusaka, Isatou Touray, Anabel Torres
Similar  Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague University of Applie, Narva College of the Unive, Leiden University, Marine Institute of Memorial

The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague is a unique, independent and international graduate school in the social sciences. The Institute of Social Studies was established in the aftermath of World War II at a time when there was widespread concern in Europe about reconstruction and when decolonization had been set in motion in India, Pakistan, Ceylon and then Indonesia. The Dutch government set up a development institute, the Institute of Social Studies, in 1952. It was the first of its kind in Europe, an innovative and far-reaching move that was to prove well ahead of its time. As in Britain about a decade later, the Dutch were primarily concerned with the potential loss of influence and markets in their former colonies and a training centre was seen as a way of forging new links. It would provide much needed assistance, influencing the thinking of future policy-makers, and building new allegiances that would keep open the door for their own interests and businesses.


In January 1952, the Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Cooperation (NUFFIC) was created to facilitate and oversee the work. One of its first tasks was the creation of an international Institute of Social Studies—a special post-graduate, English-language institution that would bring Dutch knowledge to bear in a distinctive model of higher education to do with problems of development. It is one of the oldest and largest centres for the comparative study and research of social, political and economic development and change. ISS offers quality learning to its students and critical social science knowledge to its scientific peers, and stimulates debate with the general public, through an organisation that strives for ‘total quality care’. It is not to be confused with the Institute of Social Studies Trust in Delhi, India or with the Institute of Social Studies and Research in Tehran in Iran.

ISS is based in The Hague. It has around 62 academic staff and 280 full- time students. ISS staff members specialize in topics from land reform to enterprise development, and from the World Bank to slum politics, from human rights to genocide, and from inequality to social movements, from global migration to the role of media in conflict.In addition to its teaching and research, ISS is active in the fields of advisory work and institutional capacity building projects. All ISS activities are characterised by an interdisciplinary approach and are conducted by an international staff which reflects a broad range of experience and theoretical interests.

ISS is a member of The Hague Academic Coalition (HAC) which is a consortium of academic institutions in the fields of international relations, international law and international development. It is also affiliated with Ceres Utrecht, which is part of the Interuniversitary Research School for Resource Studies for Development, a research and graduate school. ISS is one of the founding partners of The Hague Institute for Global Justice, a newly established research institute in The Hague.


ISS was founded in 1952 by the Dutch government to assist in the training and further education of professionals, especially, but not only, from developing countries. ISS is part of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

When the ISS was created, the idea was to train and bring to the Netherlands young, bright people, mainly government employees initially, from mainly post-colonial countries. This was one way in which the Netherlands sought to develop good relationships with intellectuals and policy makers in partner countries, including and beyond former Dutch colonies. For many years, the main funding body for ISS Masters students was the Dutch government, most recently through the Nuffic Foundation, which is usually administered through Embassies in the students' countries of origin. More recently the profile of students who come to study for Masters and PhDs at the ISS has been changing. A greater proportion are from Europe and North America, and even from the Netherlands, as well as from Central Asia and former communist bloc countries, however, the majority are still from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The Institute's former academic staff and students form a kind of diasporic community that often retain close ties to the Institute. Their shared concerns include thinking 'outside the box' of conventional economic development policies. There is a shared view that good practice and good analysis should go together in the world of development. Across interests as diverse as development economics, human rights, women and gender and agrarian change, ISS students and staff often work together as well as learn together. A strong historical trend has been to study and research 'alternatives' to mainstream thinking about development. A wide range of disciplines is represented, from economics to women's studies and international law. Across all the work of the ISS, what seems to emerge as a common theme is the question of how theory and practice connect in constructing development outcomes.

Research and publications

ISS research is at the cutting edge of a range of development-related areas. Many articles and books have been published on a regular basis by ISS staff to share the findings of their academic work. Much of the research carried out in the Institute is available through no-cost publications on-line, like the ISS Working Papers and the ISS-Hivos Knowledge Programme Working Papers.

The ISS Working Paper series are mainly work in progress and the best, award-winning dissertations by Masters students are also published in this way. Those who seek to be widely read can publish a working paper and hope to elicit comments from readers and thus generate debate. Debate is indeed a vital part of the activities and remit of the Institute. Seminar and research workshops, conference and special events are announced on the website on an ongoing basis. As well as seminars by staff and PhD participants, visiting researchers and invited experts come to speak at ISS on a regular basis. The wider diplomatic and academic community is often invited to major debates and other events.

Programmes and degrees

ISS is one of only six large Institutes for International Education in the Netherlands. ISS together with the other five large International Education institutes focus on the exchange of knowledge in a setting of small, intercultural groups. They are facilitated by teachers with extensive experience in working in developing countries. International Education institutes in the Netherlands offer various types of education including short courses, master's programmes and sometimes PhD programmes.

ISS provides top-quality education in the social sciences to postgraduate professionals, mostly from developing countries and countries in transition. The courses are all taught in English and provide knowledge and insights in a number of fields, including development economics, sociology, politics, public policy and management, governance, gender, employment, population, social security, children and youth, and human rights.

The Institute offers a four-year Doctoral programme, a two-year joint MA degree in Public Policy, a 15.5-month MA in Development Studies with various specialisations and postgraduate diploma programmes. The four-year Doctoral programme leads to an international recognised degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies. Under the Higher Education and Research Act, ISS has the right to award its own Doctoral degree. Within the Netherlands, ISS participates in the national doctoral research school CERES, collaborating in the appointment of Professors at other universities and joint teaching programmes. With a strong focus on training in the theory and methods relevant to development studies, the MA Programme aims to equip graduates to apply new insights in policy analysis in a practical context, leading to a master's degree in Development Studies. The ISS MA Degree in Development Studies is widely recognized, accredited by the Netherlands Flemish accreditation organisation NVAO and provides eligibility for entry to PhD programmes in the Netherlands and other countries worldwide. In 2010 the ISS Masters Programme received the 'internationalization as a distinctive quality feature' accreditation from the NVAO. A series of postgraduate diploma programmes are also offered catering to the needs of young and mid-career professionals who wish to deepen their knowledge in a particular field related to their research or occupation. ISS also offers various joint programmes with academic partners all over the world. In some programmes students take part of the programme elsewhere and part of the programme at ISS in The Hague. In other programmes ISS staff travel to the partner institute for contribute to teaching. ISS admits a limited number of auditors who wish to attend only some of the courses in the MA Programme. In addition, for Dutch residents, a more flexible arrangement of the MA programme can be requested, spreading the programme over a longer period All degrees are recognised internationally and by Dutch legislation on higher education.

Academic admission requirements

For the Doctoral programme applicants are required to have a master's degree in one of the social sciences. They must have obtained at least class 2.1, B+ or equivalent as determined by the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education Nuffic. For the MA programme and the Postgraduate Diploma programmes applicants are required to have a bachelor's degree in one of the social sciences or equivalent, comprising at least three years studies at a recognised university or institute of higher education. They must have obtained at least class 2.2 (Lower Second), B or equivalent, but preferably class 2.1 (Upper Second), B+ or equivalent Applicants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan are required to have an MA degree. Professional experience relevant to the Specialisation which the applicant wishes to study is normally expected and is a preference for admission.

Language admission requirements

ISS language requirements are the same regardless of application of study. ISS does not require a language certificate from native English speakers. All other candidates must provide a certificate from either TOEFL or the IELTS (British Council). The IELTS score must be 6.5 overall for the Academic Test. The TOEFL score must be for the paper test (PBT) 580, for the computer-based test (CBT) 237 and for the internet test (IBT) 92.


ISS has a well-stocked specialised library available for the use of ISS staff and students and for visitors. The library focuses on the social sciences (development studies) with a predominant emphasis on developing countries and countries in transition. The collection comprises approximately 100,000 books, 450 current subscriptions to journals, a reference collection, as well as on-line and CD-ROM databases (e.g., World Bank Development Indicators). The library also has a substantial collection of report material, much of it "grey" literature.


Since its foundation the institute has had twelve rectors.

  • Egbert de Vries (1956–1966)
  • Jan Glastra van Loon (1966–1973)
  • Chris van Nieuwenhuyze (1973–1975)
  • Jos Hilhorst (1975–1976)
  • Louis Emmerij (1976–1985)
  • Charles Cooper (1985)
  • Dik Wolfson (1986–1990)
  • Geertje Lycklama à Nijeholt (1990–1995)
  • Henk van Roosmalen (1995)
  • Hans Opschoor (1996–2004)
  • Louk de la Rive Box (2005–2010)
  • Leo de Haan (2010-2015)
  • Inge Hutter (since 2015)
  • ISS Alumni

    Over the past 50 years, over 12,000 students from more than 160 countries have studied at ISS. Many now hold leading positions in government, international organisations, higher education, planning agencies and non-governmental organisations. These former students create the international ISS alumni community. A community in which ideas, experiences and views are shared, often for a long time after graduating. Two alumni groups can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn: ISS Alumni and Connecting the world. Alumni relations are coordinated by the office ISS Alumni Relations in The Hague.

    Many ISS alumni hold influential positions. For example, in governments, international NGOs, as well as in universities or other research institutions.

    Notable alumni

    Dr. Terrefe Woldetsadik [Minister of Education for the Government of Ethiopia, 1976-1977] [Associate professor in Political Sociology at ISS, Dec 4th, 1969] MA of Social Sciences (with distinction), ISS 1969. Ph.D in Sociology, Political Sociology and Economics, University of Utrecht, July 3, 1974.

    Honorary Fellows

    ISS's Honorary Fellows play an important role and support ISS activities in a lot of different ways. was initiated by ISS and now has 26 collaborating organizations in the field of development studies and practice. Focuss.Info provides a search engine for practitioners, researchers and students in global development studies. And unlike generic search engines like Google or Yahoo, searches through a pre-selected database of electronic resources, which are recommended by librarians, researchers and practitioners in the participating institutions. Resources are selected on the basis of their relevance to development studies as well as their quality. A feature of Focuss.Info is that researchers, students and practitioners themselves can contribute by adding their own bookmarks. This builds a search engine grounded firmly in the research activities of a growing number of people working in related fields across international development.


    International Institute of Social Studies Wikipedia