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About the programme
Language: Danish and English (See language requirements)  | Place of study: Aarhus  |  Commencement: August / September (no winter intake)


This programme is only offered in Danish.

In Cognitive Semiotics we study how meaning is created in every sense of the word, whether in perception, thought, or language. Humans experience things as meaningful; we learn by experience, we think, reason, and find new insight. And we effortlessly communicate our experiences, thoughts and ideas. Humans are sophisticated animals who not only comprehend meaningful phenomena, but also constantly produce meaning through communication, and through science and art.

But what are the essential characteristics of meaning construction? How does it work in language, in perception, in our interaction with the natural world, in the social world?

The goal of the programme in Cognitive Semiotics is to enable our students to come up with well-substantiated answers to these questions. Students acquire a solid, operational knowledge of the most important aspects of meaning making, and since human meaning construction is found in all the areas of our daily lives and activities, the programme is necessarily trans-disciplinary.

The programme consists of five main modules:

  • The Cognition and Semiotics module gives students an understanding of the general characteristics of human cognition and the production of meaning: what characterises the ways we structure our thoughts and perceptions? What mental or conceptual structures do we use? How are they linked to the world as it appears to us? How are they linked to our sensory-motor interaction with our immediate surroundings?
  • The Cognitive Linguistics module is composed of both theoretical and practical dimensions: the theoretical, where students learn about the structure of language and how language is related to other cognitive systems, such as perception, memory and the motor system; and the practical, where we study semantic meaning in order to understand the rhetorical aspects of language. In other words: how should one express oneself in order to activate a specific interpretation in the receiver?
  • The Mind and Cognition module treats, among other things, social cognition, where we learn the prerequisites for the creation of the social structures characteristic of the human race; these prerequisites include the ability to imitate, to read the intentions and the state of mind of other people, and similar skills. In addition, we learn to understand basic cognitive abilities, such as perception, memory, imagination, and creative thought, and we are taught how the brain makes these abilities possible.
  • The Cognitive Aesthetics module focuses on the activity linked to the production and experience of works of art, whether literary or the visual arts, new or old. The module does not aim to explain what art is as such, or to teach students what distinguishes one genre from another or one epoch from another. On the contrary, it aims to explain how, in virtue of what general structures and conditions artists construct meaning in their artworks.
  • Finally, in the Experimental Cognition module students acquire knowledge about quantitative methods for cognition- and neurosciences through practical exercises. Cognitive Semiotics is a questioning science. Naturally, it is based on a number of basic premises, and naturally it has its own tools of explanation and description. It is these premises and tools, we will impart to students. Its subject area – human meaning construction, the relationship between language-thought-perception, and the relationship between the physical properties of the brain and human cognitive abilities – is complex, and the mapping of these issues has barely begun. So we will not only teach facts and established truths, but also hypotheses, and the art of formulating good hypotheses, including an introduction to setting experiments up in order to verify or falsify a given hypothesis.

In addition to the above five modules, the programme offers several other courses and seminars. And the centre also has an open research seminar, where current questions regarding semiotics and its relationship to other areas, from mathematics to philosophy, from logic to anthropology and biology, are taken up, and various guest speakers are introduced and their presentations discussed.

Other courses treat specific subjects in depth, such as special areas of the history of semiotics, cognition research, the basis for semiotics, etc., and still others will be handled by PhD students, and will be based on their fields of research.

At Cognitive Semiotics we have an extensive network of international contacts which means that we regularly have visits by foreign authorities who can impart expert knowledge in many areas: cognitive science, classic and modern semiotics, philosophy, cognitive psychology and linguistics, aesthetics, etc.

Our aim is not just to deliver research-based instruction, but to do “instruction-based research” – i.e. give competent students the opportunity to actively contribute to on-going research projects, and to participate in the organisation of and presentations at conferences.

Similarly, we expect that students be rationally questioning, constructively critical, active, eager for knowledge, and hardworking. We know that we have the framework for a highly qualified and insight-giving education in human meaning construction. But it is the students who make sense of the framework by filling it with commitment, enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity.

Anyone who fulfils these criteria is welcome at the Center for Semiotics. In return, we promise to take your education a very important step further.

Find more information about the Centre for Semiotics here.

Admission requirements

The admissions requirement for the MA programme in cognitive semiotics is a completed Bachelor’s degree in psychology, a humanistic subject from a Danish or foreign university or a Bachelor's degree in Cognitive Science from Aarhus University. 

Other qualifications can provide admission to the Master’s degree programme, provided the university assesses that their level, extent and content correspond to the degrees mentioned above. 

The cognitive semiotics programme admits students on the basis of an overall assessment of their Bachelor’s degree, including marks and academic relevance, as well as an application stating reasons. You are therefore required to submit the following documents:

  • Your Bachelor’s degree diploma. If you have not yet completed your degree, you must to print and attach a transcript of the exams you have passed so far. Admission is granted on the condition that you complete your Bachelor’s degree during summer 2011 and inform the AU Studies Administration when you have completed your degree. If you are a student at Aarhus University, you can do this over the phone. If you are a student at another Danish university, you must submit a copy of your Bachelor’s degree diploma.
  • An application stating reasons. The application must be in English and 1–2 pages in length. In it, you should explain:
    - The relevance of your Bachelor’s degree for the Master’s degree programme in cognitive semiotics.
    - Which specific Bachelor’s degree courses you think you will be able to build on during the Master’s degree programme.
    - Your career plans
  • Proof of English at B level.

Language Requirements

Since Danish is the language of instruction, all applicants are required to provide evidence of their Danish language proficiency. Furthermore you must also provide evidence of English B (Danish upper secondary school level with a minimum GPA of 3.0).
Please see the page on language requirements.

Selection Criteria

If there are more academically qualified applicants than places available, each applicant will be assessed according to the following criteria:

  1. Academic background (counts 75%)
    Based on the amount and quality of BA exams that are relevant to the MA-program.
  2. Other relevant experience (counts 25%)
    Based on Curriculum Vitae and relevance description. See below for more details.


In addition to the general documentation requirements, you must upload the following documentation to your application:

1) Relevance Description

Relevance description is a brief description (1-2 pages) explaining:

- The academic relevance of your Bachelor’s degree programme to the Master’s degree programme

- Which courses from your Bachelor’s degree programme meet the academic requirements for admission to the Master's degree programme

- Your career plans

2) Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum Vitae (CV) detailing relevant parts of your education as well as work-related and other experience in chronological order.

You may also attach detailed documentation connected to your resume, such as recommendations, assessments, etc. However, this is not a requirement.

3) If your Bachelor’s degree is not from Aarhus University, you must upload the academic regulations or contents of your study programme or a link pointing to them.


Programme structure

Academic regulations

As a student it is important to know the regulations for the chosen supplementary subject: what is the content, how is it structured and what does it require from you.

You can find this information in the academic regulations. There is a regulation for both bachelor’s supplementary subject and master’s supplementary subject:

In the following graphical presentation of the subject you can see the different modules and courses that, in addition, link to the course catalogue where you can read the course descriptions.

Student life

As a student of the programme, you spend every day at Nobel Park, which is located just off the main Aarhus University Park campus.

The timetable changes every second week meaning the amount of classroom lessons change every second week from four to six lessons. In addition, the degree program includes Master classes and research seminars. You must also be prepared to do a lot of independent study. You will be assigned a study group in which you solve exercises and discuss the litterature for classes. A study café is held every other week, where you can meet with and work in your study group.

Since we admit candidates with BA degrees from Denmark with different backgrounds within the humanistic, social science and science traditions, there is a basis for interesting interdisciplinary discussions and different approaches to the subject.

The Centre for Semiotics has an extensive international network, and foreign researchers therefore often visit and contribute expert knowledge in the fields of cognitive psychology, philosophy, linguistics, aesthetics and more.

As the elective at Bachelor’s degree level and the Master’s degree programme in Cognitive Semiotics are small degree programmes, the study environment is very informal. The teaching staff are are open to suggestions and ideas from students and have confidence in their abilities, curiosity and interest in the subject.

A joint Christmas lunch is held every year for teachers and students. The students arrange a so-called “student symposium”, in which they present their papers or other examples of work in progress.


Student-to-student is your opportunity to ask about being a student at the Faculty of Arts and about Aarhus and Denmark in general to another international student who has already taken the leap and now lives in Denmark and studies for his/her Master's degree at the Faculty of Arts.

You can read more about the student-to-student service and find the list of AU international student ambassadors at Arts here.

The University Park campus – a unique place

The main Aarhus University campus is unique, with buildings closely grouped together and surrounded by nature. The campus is conveniently situated close to the city centre, and student accommodation is readily available as long as you apply on time. There are a range of activities, ranging from running to regatta on the lake, as well as guest lectures, film screenings, and university events taking place throughout the year. To ensure student well-being, counselling services are available for students, to offer support and guidance during their time at Aarhus. Read more about the study environment at Aarhus University.  

Aarhus as a city

As the second-largest city in Denmark, Aarhus is a young and dynamic place with plenty of opportunities. The 40,000 students at the university make up 17.5% of the city’s population, which leaves its mark on city life. An attractive feature of Aarhus is that there are beaches and woods a short bike-ride away, as well as cultural events taking place throughout the year, including the Aarhus Festival in September. The theatres in the city and the ARoS international art museum offer many events that enable you to experience the Danish culture.

Why choose Aarhus? See studyguide.au.dk and get all practical information about being an international student. 

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Job functions for grads

This data is derived from AU's 2016 employment survey. This data should not be considered a completely accurate representation of the labour market and job functions for all graduates of the individual degree programmes. It exclusively represent the responses submitted to the survey in the years in question.

Job and competence profile

As a cognitive semiotics graduate, you typically become employed in one of the following areas:


The communication and advertising industry: With solid knowledge about the ways people relate to meaning-forming structures in the surrounding world, it is an obvious choice to work with communication consultancy and design or within advertising and marketing.

Communication comes in many forms, so there are also examples of cognitive semiotics graduates working with the communication difficulties of the mentally handicapped.

Teaching: Cognitive semiotics graduates have also found employment as teachers at folk high schools or within the cognitive area.

Research: One out of seven cognitive semiotics graduates is currently pursuing a career in academic contexts around the world as a PhD student, research assistant or the like.


Linguistic awareness: The Cognitive Linguistics module aims at giving the students a high degree of linguistic awareness and answers to the questions: How do people perceive meaning in sentences and entire texts? How do we create this meaning?

Analytical expertise: By examining how humans perceive and use language, art, socializing, memory and motor functions, you will, through the link between theory and diverse objects of analysis, improve your analytical skills and abilities.

Interdisciplinarity: The programme is, in and of itself, interdisciplinary and the students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, both Danish and international. Therefore you will be trained in relating to the traditions of different subjects approach to cognition and semiotics in the discussions, and the collaboration with students who come from a different academic background.

Career guidance

Please contact the Student Counselling Office for advice about employment opportunities and the subject profile options of your degree programme.

You can read more about the career services that are available from Arts Karriere who provide information about employment opportunities as well as arranging various events and workshops.