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University of Basel

Teaching

University Library Basel
Image: University Library Basel, Mark Niedermann

The degree programs offered by the University of Basel to address sustainability issues are both broad and deep in their scope. Over 18 degree programs offer sustainability-related classes, some of which include their own specialization modules. The interdisciplinary master’s degree program in Sustainable Development offers the only opportunity of its kind in Switzerland to earn a bona fide degree specifically in this field. In addition, a separate certificate program encompassing four classes offers interested students from all subject areas a chance to learn about sustainable development. To top off the academic programs, two online courses (MOOCs) are offered on the topics of energy and health.

Goals 2019 - 2021

Building on the 2018 database (see "Status 2018"),  the University of Basel developed goals and actions for the 2019-2021 timeframe to further develop sustainability in teaching.

Goals
Actions
Responsible
Goals

Making sustainability-related courses more visible and easier to find

Actions
  • Cataloging all courses related to sustainability and preparing a directory of these courses each semester. Raising awareness about sustainability-related courses.
Responsible

Sustainability Office

Goals

Increasing the number of students attending sustainability-related courses in fulfillment of their elective credit requirements

Actions
  • Optimizing communications, in particular the Transfaculty Cross Section Program Sustainable Development (TQNE), e.g. in UniNews, on social media, at information events, changing course dates, etc.
Responsible

Sustainability Office
in collaboration with head of the TQNE program

Goals

Successful implementation of the IMPULS funding program for sustainability in teaching

Actions
  • Funding for at least three courses per semester through the end of 2020
Responsible

Sustainability Office

Status 2018

Sustainability in the curricula of the University of Basel

Studying at the University of Basel covers a wide spectrum of sustainability-related topics and allows students to explore the challenges presented by climate change, limited resources and migration. At the same time, it promotes the ability to identify and analyze the problems of sustainable development in broader contexts and to develop sustainable solutions.

To evaluate and describe the academic programs relating to sustainability at the University of Basel, all degree programs were categorized according to the sustainability focus at course, module or class level. The focus and specialization of the various curricula can vary greatly in this regard. The following table illustrates the breadth of this spectrum:

Degree programs related to sustainability

Kategorie
Fakultät
Studiengang
Kategorie

Category 1
Degree program explicitly related to sustainable development

Fakultät

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Faculty of Science
Faculty of Business and Economics

Studiengang
  • Master in Sustainable Development
Kategorie

Category 2

Degree program with specialization modules explicitly devoted to the topic of sustainability in an interdisciplinary context

 

Fakultät

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Studiengang
  • Master in Changing Societies (Module: resources and sustainable development)
  • Master in European Global Studies (Module: environment and sustainability)
  • Master African Studies (Modules: environment and development; culture and society)
Kategorie
Fakultät

Faculty of Business and Economics

Studiengang
  • Master in Business and Economics (Major: international trade, growth and the environment)
Kategorie

Category 3
Degree program with several classes or disciplinary specialization in the area of sustainability

Fakultät

Faculty of Science

Studiengang
  • Bachelor Geowissenschaften (earth sciences)
  • Master Geowissenschaften (earth sciences)
  • Master Ecology
  • Master Plant Science
  • Master Nanowissenschaften (nanoscience)
  • Master Epidemiology
Kategorie
Fakultät

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Studiengang
  • Bachelor Geographie (geography)
  • Master Geographie (geography)
  • Master Soziologie (sociology)
  • Master Politikwissenschaften (political sciences)
  • Bachelor Osteuropa-Studien (eastern european studies)
Kategorie
Fakultät

Faculty of Theology & Faculty of Business and Economics

Studiengang
  • Master in Religion, Economics and Politics
Kategorie
Fakultät

Faculty of Business and Economics

Studiengang
  • Bachelor in Business and Economics

In addition to the degree programs listed above in categories 1 through 3, various other degree programs offer individual classes devoted to topics of sustainability.

 

The master’s degree in Sustainable Development Master in Sustainable Development at the University of Basel offers a specialized degree with an equal footing in three faculties and covers both the theoretical foundations of sustainable development as well as methods for dealing with the challenges facing society today. Classes with an interdisciplinary structure are the common thread weaving together the entire course of studies. The past focus topics of energy and water reflect the research expertise within the relevant faculties. Since the fall semester 2017, the degree program has been offered in English to make it even more appealing to an international audience.

Number of students enrolled for the fall semester
2015
2016
2017
2018
Number of students enrolled for the fall semester

Master in Sustainable Development

2015

67

2016

59

2017

49

2018

56

 

In 2018, the University of Basel began offering a new master’s program called Changing Societies Masterprogramm Changing Societies, which explores societal transformations – with a specific focus on the aspects of immigration, conflicts and resources. The interdisciplinary specialization module “Resources and Sustainable Development” deals explicitly with the topic of sustainability.


Highlight

In the WWF study guide for economics on the topic of sustainable development in the degree programs at Swiss universities, the University of Basel is among the universities offering the broadest coverage of sustainability topics, both at bachelor’s and master’s level.

Prof. Dr. Hannes Weigt, Energy Economics

First and foremost, the University of Basel is committed to offering a broad range of elective courses. We never want to force anyone to do anything. That would hardly be a sustainable approach either. We want to open up opportunities. And many students are taking advantage of the classes in the areas of sustainability, energy and the environment.

Prof. Dr. Hannes Weigt, Energy Economics

Degree programs for interested students from all subject areas

For more than 15 years, the Transfaculty Cross Section Program Sustainable Development (TQNE) has been offering bachelor’s or master’s students four classes in which they can earn credit points towards fulfilling their elective requirements. The thematic focus of the program is currently sustainability and food. Students can earn a certificate after successfully completing all of the classes.

TQNE - number of students per class
2015
2016
2017
2018
TQNE - number of students per class

A: Perpectives of Natural Sciences

2015

28

2016

33

2017

27

2018

26

TQNE - number of students per class

B: Perspectives of Social Sciences

2015

42

2016

39

2017

24

2018

24

TQNE - number of students per class

C: Perspectives of Economics on Sustainability

2015

-

2016

16

2017

9

2018

8

TQNE - number of students per class

D: Interdisciplinary Approach to Sustainability

2015

-

2016

7

2017

9

2018

6

Massive open online courses

Two massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer students from the University of Basel and other universities, as well as other interested parties, the opportunity to further explore research focuses on sustainability-related topics in an international environment.

Trailer One Health: Connecting Humans, Animals and the Environment
Trailer Exploring Possible Futures: Modeling in Environmental and Energy Economics

Project IMPULS

In 2018, the University of Basel received funding from U Change, a program organized by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences to implement the IMPULS project. One goal of IMPULS is to make sustainability part of teaching activities. Beginning in the fall semester 2019, the project will offer funding to lecturers and students who, during their coursework, conduct projects related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sustainability in everyday teaching

In addition to considering ecological resources, sustainability in everyday teaching activities also means that teaching can be adapted to an increasingly complex environment, i.e. as sustainable learning through academic programs offering the appropriate degree of innovation.

The University of Basel is doing this, among other things, with its strategy for digitalization in teaching. The University of Basel wants to give its students the qualifications they need for life, learning and working in an increasingly digital society. It has two main objectives in this regard: (1) Students should be well-connected as they learn in digital environments that have a close tie to research and practical applications (“connectedness”) and (2) be able to confidently navigate open virtual worlds while being cognizant of data protection, data security and intellectual property (“openness”), for example, so that they can utilize the available learning resources and tools in their studies or participate in public discourse in scientific communities.

 

Best practices - DigiLit: DigiLit provides a set of best practices for sustainable everyday teaching activities at the University of Basel. Lecturers at the University of Basel can digitize articles from journals or individual chapters from books for their classes at no charge and upload them to the ADAM learning platform.

The digital reserved reading system (Semesterapparat) eliminates the need to make copies and conserves resources used to copy or print out texts, because they can be read and marked up online. In addition, DigiLit offers easier access to the required teaching materials, because all students in a class can access the documents in ADAM at the same time. The number of articles put on DigiLit is increasing every year. In 2017, there were 407 articles that no longer had to be copied; in 2018, there were 452.

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