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Complexity: Can it be Simplified? (EN)

What do pandemics, economic crises, traffic jams, consciousness, the climate, immune systems and flocks of birds have in common? They can all be described as complex systems.

How do we solve our most urgent societal challenges, such as the ecological breakdown, growing inequality, and the spread of misinformation? Solutions include unprecedented societal and technological changes in highly interrelated systems, balancing fairness and other moral principles in the process. To understand and communicate such interdisciplinary problems, we need a common language: Complexity

Complexity refers to a property of many systems – global climate, traffic jams, or our immune system – where their emergent features make them hard to manage. It typically means having multiple different elements interacting and adapting in ways that are not intuitive.

In this course, designed for a broad audience, you will learn about complex systems and hear from different experts (climate, epidemics, and criminal networks). After developing a common language to consolidate and communicate complex concepts, you will learn to quantify them and build a simple but complex system yourself.


Vítor V. Vasconcelos

Entry requirements

This course is open for Bachelor's and Master's students and other interested parties, such as contract students, students from other institutions and UvA staff. Please note: Contract students and staff members who wish to take the course without examination can only participate in the first part of the course (lectures).

For Master's students, High school-level mathematics is required since a detailed analysis of the computational model is obligatory in their group assignment. 


You can find the timetable on Datanose.
We now expect that all lectures can take place on-campus. However, if the regulations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are intensified, we may be forced to organise our education online. Course fees will remain unchanged for contract students. Before and during the course, you will be informed about the latest regulations.

As a contract student, please read the course-specific information carefully, since the courses vary in possibilities for contract students.


Prices can be found on the IIS website.


Registration is open from 5 December 2022. For students registration proceeds through the GLASS registration rounds. Master’s students can send a short motivation to ‘Bijvak’ students and contract students can register by completing the online registration form.

More information

SDGs in education

The IIS strives to reflect current societal issues and challenges in our elective courses, honours modules and degree programmes and attempts to integrate the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this course. For more information about these goals, please visit the SDGs website.

Facts & Figures
Mode Short-term
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Conditions for admission Open
Starts in February