Universiteit Leiden

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Sustainability in teaching

Students are the future. In the long-term, teaching our students about sustainability could potentially have an even greater impact than making the University’s operations more sustainable.

Giving students the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills related to sustainability within their own field of study will enable them to contribute towards a sustainable economy throughout their careers. To this end, the University collaborates with Erasmus University Rotterdam and Delft University of Technology within the Centre for Sustainability.

Programmes in sustainability

Leiden University offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes as well as minors in sustainability. The Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) in particular offers a range of courses, electives and extracurricular opportunities for students who want to learn more about sustainability. The University is currently exploring the possibility of expanding its range of programmes and courses in sustainability.

Bachelor’s degree programmes with a sustainability focus

  • Urban Studies, focusing on the theme of ‘the sustainable city’ (Faculty of Humanities)
  • Liberal Arts & Sciences: Global Challenges, with a specialisation in Earth, Energy, and Sustainability (Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs)
  • Molecular Science & Technology, with courses on the circular economy and corporate social responsibility (Faculty of Science/with Delft University of Technology)

The Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences are currently developing a bachelor’s degree programme in sustainability.

Master’s degree programmes with a sustainability focus

  • Governance of Sustainability (Faculty of Science/Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs)
  • Industrial Ecology (Faculty of Science/with Delft University of Technology)

Minors with a sustainability focus

  • Advanced Life Science and Technology (Faculty of Science)
  • Biodiversity (Faculty of Science)
  • Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development (Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities)
  • Geo-Resources for the Future (Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities)
  • Responsible Innovation (Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities)
  • Smart and Shared Cities (Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities)
  • Sustainable Development (Faculty of Science/Interdisciplinary)

Other programmes

The theme of sustainability is also covered in a number of other courses and programmes. Here is a selection:

  • The Faculty of Archaeology offers courses on landscape archaeology and how materials shape the world.
  • The extracurricular lecture Sustainability & Law series (Faculty of Law) examines the increasing legal influence on a sustainable future by looking at current issues, such as the nitrogen problem and plastic waste.
  • As part of the Master’s programme in Psychology, students have the opportunity to take the Environmental Psychology course. This course discusses questions such as: which psychological mechanisms drive environmentally relevant behaviour and how can interventions be designed to change behaviour?
  • The Environmental Philosophy course (Faculty of Humanities), which deals with issues such as how people view environmental ethics and ecologism as a political ideology, is available to bachelor’s and pre-master’s students.
  • The LDE partnership (Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities) offers several MOOCs* on sustainability, such as
    • Circular Economy, Risk in Modern Society
    • A Circular Economy of Metals: Towards a Sustainable Societal Metabolism
    • Security & Safety Challenges in a Globalized World

*MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are courses designed for mass participation. The course material is offered online, which means that participants can follow the course from anywhere in the world.

  • The Honours Academy offers honours classes that focus on sustainability, such as Circular Economy: from Challenge to Opportunity and Planet in Peril: Exploring Human Relations with Nature.
  • The Humanities Lab also offers opportunities for students to learn more about sustainability, for example in the Plastic: A cultural history course, or in a final capstone project.


Leiden University has set out its goals for making its teaching and education more sustainable in its 2016-2020 Environmental Policy Plan. It is also currently developing a future vision on sustainability. In this vision, the University will outline its ambitions with regard to the role of the theme of sustainability in its degree programmes.

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